Winner, George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature
Finalist, Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize (BC Book Prizes)
North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic. While deaths across the continent soar, Travis Lupick's Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city's response to the drug crisis.
It tells the story of a grassroots group of addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalized citizens. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, this group of residents from Canada's poorest neighbourhood organized themselves in response to a growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen; against all odds, they eventually won.
But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high. It's prompted many to rethink the war on drugs. Public opinion has slowly begun to turn against prohibition, and policy-makers are finally beginning to look at addiction as a health issue as opposed to one for the criminal justice system.
The previous epidemic in Vancouver sparked government action. Twenty years later, as the same pattern plays out in other cities, there is much that advocates for reform can learn from Vancouver's experience. Fighting for Space tells that story, with the same passionate fervor as the activists whose tireless work gave dignity to addicts and saved countless lives.