Documentary filmmaker on crime and addiction in Vancouver

Vancouver is Dying documentary Released by independent journalist and city resident Aaron Gunn, has garnered more than two million views since it premiered on October 7.

This hour-long film focuses on the overdose crisis, rising crime, public unrest, and homelessness, and specifically criticizes what Gunn calls the government. “

In an interview with The Epoch Times, gunThe conservative social media commentator and unsuccessful B.C. Liberal Party leader candidate said he made the documentary out of frustration over the devastation in his city.

Gunn says Vancouver is the “leader” of the horrific policies. According to Gunn, Vancouver has “the highest overdose mortality rate in Canada” and “the most ‘progressive’ drug policy in North America”, but crime, especially violent attacks, has risen dramatically. increase.

Decriminalization of hard drugs

BC in May first state in Canada decriminalize Possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use. After January 31, 2023, adults can carry up to 2.5 grams of substances such as opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine, but these substances remain illegal.

“Decriminalizing simple drug possession is a historic, brave, and groundbreaking step in the fight to save lives. shows.” Said Kennedy Stewart, mayor of Vancouver at the time.

Gunn disagrees.he Said CTV News, Nov. 6, “When it comes to heroin, fentanyl, meth, etc., I think there should be a social stigma attached to these substances.”

As a society, he said, we need to “remove the stigma around seeking treatment” to help people recover and help them recover from addiction so they can become productive citizens. said.

At one point during filming, which began in April, Gunn Said He had a police escort for the more seedy parts of the city. “Without the police, the chances of me feeling safe and comfortable are zero,” he said.

Documentary Executive Producer Angelo Isidorou, Director of the Free Speech Club at the University of British Columbia, murmured On October 10, the film was “currently the most consumed content” in the Vancouver City Council elections held on October 15, in which Stewart was defeated as mayor.

The new mayor Ken Shim, who soon campaigned on the platform of employment 100 more police officers and 100 mental health nurses to formally tackle Vancouver’s drug and crime crisis take office November 7th with an overwhelming majority of votes.

For this documentary, Gunn interviewed residents, business owners, law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals, victims of violent crime, and recovered addicts. Initially, the film was slated to be 20 to 30 minutes long for him, but he says it quickly expanded in size and scope.

“What is happening in Vancouver today – crime, depravity, overdose deaths – is not normal. The policies of the last 20 years have failed, so it is time to try something new.” he says.

“Hard drugs like heroin are stigmatized for a reason. I will add.

With his documentary, he hopes to convey the message that addiction recovery is possible and that there is a cure.

The successful civil servant was once an addict

Alberta Prime Minister Daniel Smith’s chief of staff, Marshall Smith (no relation to the Prime Minister), was featured prominently in the documentary. Smith is the former Chief of Staff to Alberta’s Deputy Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, has considerable experience in the private drug treatment industry, and advocates an abstinence approach to drug recovery.

he speaks from experience. An alcoholic, he lost his career in British Columbia state politics in the early 2000s and became homeless due to his battle with addiction.

“I ended up cutting my suit and tie and running for Congress to become a new resident of downtown Vancouver’s East Side. I spent five years living on the streets of Vancouver as a homeless addict until a cure was found. , until I find recovery,” he said Said CBC News, May 2017.

For some time after his innocence, Smith served as director of a private drug addiction treatment center in Prince George, British Columbia. bring up He communicated his views on the abstinence-based treatment model to the Alberta government.

In the documentary, he said the government needs to understand that drug use is “the root cause of homelessness, crime and overdoses.” He argues that by focusing on “harm reduction,” which is basically “reduced stigma, more drugs,” and safer places to consume, the 150 overdose deaths a year a few years ago were eliminated. , said that it now routinely turns into more than 2,000 overdose deaths per year.

“I don’t know how you came to that conclusion. [harm reduction] It worked,” says Smith. He said the state had failed to focus on “mitigating stigma.”

If his children end up addicted to drugs, he says in the film: … Ultimately, they managed to overdose one day.

“There is nothing safe about giving out opioids.said Smith. “circleIf you provide someone with drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, Nothing is safe about it. You are prolonging your illness. You are perpetuating your addiction. And it is essentially a state-sponsored addiction. “

A new trending “threat”

The documentary reveals that Vancouver residents “We are threatened with new and terrifying trends of random and stranger attacks. “

Movies provide a list. “DA delivery service employee was stabbed, a woman casually walking down the street was hit in the head with a hammer, there were racist-motivated assaults, and even a woman who was literally set on fire, these are just a few examples. is. oThere have been many stranger attacks on the streets of Vancouver this year alone.

“The situation is getting worse, with unsolicited attacks on strangers jumping 35%, according to Vancouver Police.According to the movie, it refers to stats for attacks in the first three months (Q1) of 2022 compared to the Q1 average for the three years from 2017 to 2019.

This statistic is based on the Vancouver Police April 5 stats. Public Safety Indicator Report Covers Q1 2022. This comparison to the three-year pre-pandemic average is one of many comparisons made in that report.

Other alarming statistics from that report, cited in the documentary, include a 12% increase in violent crimes and a 36.1% increase in serious assaults in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the three-year average prior to the pandemic. It includes what you are doing. Compared to Q1 2021, violent crimes decreased by 0.8% from 1,408 to 1,397, and serious assaults decreased by 5% from 442 to 420.

There were 46 attacks against peace officers in 2021 and 31 in 2022, a 20.8% increase in these attacks compared to the three-year average.


For this documentary, Gunn interviewed Ralph Keysers, president of the Vancouver Police Union. He believes the “revolving door justice system” is undermining public confidence in the police.

W.can Violent people roam our streets and scare people. Because it becomes a jungle. It is not uncommon for a criminal to be arrested in the morning, say early in the morning, and that same person to be re-arrested within 24 hours. ” Kaisers said.

Gunn says the strongest part of the documentary is an interview with Cody Hall, a recovered addict who was addicted to opioids less than two years ago and lived on the downtown East Side of Vancouver.

“He is living proof that recovery is possible, and sentenced people struggling with addiction to life in prison for drug use is not a compassionate solution,” Gunn says.

The solution is obvious, says Gunn. As a society, we “must get people into treatment and recovery programs and put them back into productive, tax-paying part of society,” Gunn adds.

“We also need to make it clear that living on the streets and injecting drugs in front of us is not a socially acceptable outcome for us as a society. , we must be prepared to give it to them.”

Marnie Cathcart


Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.