By Mike Archer. Barry Shantz is one of the most annoying, argumentative, in-your-face angry pricks you’re ever likely to run into.
He’s been called paranoid, a shit-disturber, impossible to work with … in short he doesn’t play well with others.
He’s that way for a reason.
Photo: Barry Shantz, by Photographer/Director Carlo Ricci
Shantz is the head of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) and in a City which has made helping his members illegal, he feels he has a right to be angry.
Abbotsford’s Anti Harm Reduction bylaw makes it illegal to use any property in Abbotsford for institutions, like the Fraser Health Authority or others, to provide life-saving health care to Abbotsford citizens if they happen to be drug addicts or if the life-saving care falls into the category espoused by most communities in the Western world intent on fighting addiction and homelessness.
Those basic services include clean needles so that addicts can be kept alive long enough to be helped in overcoming their addictions.
Abbotsford is the only city in the country to make emergency health care illegal for certain of its citizens.
And that makes Barry Shantz angry.
The DWS, with the help of the Pivot Legal Society, is fighting City Hall with several lawsuits which have been launched on behalf of DWS members who were caught in last summer’s Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident.
A complaint has also been launched with the BC Human Rights Tribunal and more suits may be on the way.
“You just can’t treat people this way. We are human beings. You can’t simply cleanse your city of some of its citizens this way,” says Shantz, referring to the City of Abbotsford’s long standing practice of refusing treatment to drug addicts and using its police force to move them around the city.
“You can beat us up; you can cover us in chicken shit; you can do your best to get rid of us but we’re not going away,” says Shantz adding, “And the one thing we will not allow … You cannot refuse to allow us at the table when you decide what you’re going to do with us.”
Shantz and the DWS have organized a peaceful protest and demonstration to be held at Jubilee Park in Abbotsford starting at noon on Sunday, Oct 20 and running until noon of Wednesday, Oct 23. In a press release sent out Wednesday, the DWS says:
“The demonstration is targeted at educating the public on the issues facing low-income and homeless people in Abbotsford and calling on the City of Abbotsford to undertake meaningful discussions with the people most affected by these decisions, including low-income and homeless people who use drugs.
“To date, the Abbotsford chapter of BCYADWS, representing hundreds of low-income and homeless people who use drugs in Abbotsford, has been excluded from the conversations about housing. The BCYADWS feels it imperative that they be at the table for discussions about housing and shelter options that involve their members, and will lead to decisions about locating addictions centres, funding for social services, shelters, and housing.
“We were seeing real progress up until about a year ago and since then we’ve simply been cut out of the process,” says Shantz,. “We stand firm that decisions about drug users should be made with actual drug users at the table.”
“With winter approaching, advocates for homeless people in Abbotsford are concerned about policies of shelters that exclude people who appear to be drug or alcohol users, leaving them to fend for themselves outside in freezing weather, and putting their health and safety at risk.
“This is really an unacceptable situation that must be changed,” said Shantz. “People who use drugs have human rights, and the right to be a part of the decision-making process. We’re hoping to educate the public and our city officials about why our voices matter and nothing should be decided about us without us.”
“At the event in Jubilee Park, a teepee will be constructed, and a traditional Anishinabe Ceremony will be conducted. Shantz has asked that, during the ceremony and the entire event those participating be left in peace. “We ask that we not be harassed or molested as we assert our rights and educate our community,” says Shantz.
- Cover photo by Photographer/Director Carlo Ricci for Vancouver Magazine. Carlo is a commercial photographer and director. He specialises in editorial portraiture, motion and advertising. Clients include Emirates, Canadian Tourism, BCLottery, Condè Nast and Mastercard. For assignments in Canada & portfolio requests please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Represented in US by www.wonderfulmachine.comYou can find samples of his work on his website.
- Other photos by Bas Stevens.Bas is the owner and photographer at MonoPod Photography. You can follow Bas on Facebook where he publishes many of his photos.