Dean Wilson used to be an IBM salesman. Now he is possibly the most outspoken drug addict in Canada. As president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) he is a loud and articulate advocate for street addicts from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, and the site of the highest HIV rate in North America.
Ann Livingston is the charismatic organizer of VANDU. She is a non-user, driven by an impatient spirituality and she is as confrontational as hell. Together, Ann and Dean lead an unpredictable crew of street addicts in their fight to open North America’s first safe injection site for drug users. Safe injection sites, where users can inject drugs without the danger of overdose or infection, are seen by supporters as the first step in bringing addicts into treatment programs. In 27 cities around the world, safe injection sites have been proven to save lives.
Dean loves Ann. But he also is captured by the drugs he uses.
Dean Wilson has found a curious ally in Philip Owen, the conservative Mayor of Vancouver who has alarmed members of his own party by championing a daring new drug philosophy called Harm Reduction. The Mayor’s plan for dealing with drug and addiction breaks away from the American-style War on Drugs by seriously considering safe injection sites and heroin maintenance programs for long term addicts. Philip Owen is a mayor struggling to transform his city from being North America’s most notorious drug port into possibly becoming the first city on the continent to realistically face drug addiction.
The Mayor is staking his political career on Harm Reduction. Dean Wilson and Ann Livingston say the drug users are staking their lives on it.
But not everyone agrees with the Mayor or the users. Key members of the Mayor’s own political party, together with an alliance of business and local residents, say they will do everything they can to stop safe injection sites and the Mayor’s plan. They say their neighbourhoods, their children and their livelihoods are at risk. They are taking to the streets. So are the drug users.
Vancouver Police Sargeant Doug Lang is the cop caught in the middle. He is in charge of the corner of Main and Hastings, the heart of North America’s largest open drug scene. He wakes up homeless addicts who sleep in the streets, arrests drug dealers and tries to maintain a sense of law and order in the area – he calls it “shoveling water.”
As the Mayor battles members of his own political party, Dean Wilson dares to face his own addiction. The stories of FIX span over two years as our characters’ lives interconnect to reveal a battle for the hearts, minds and streets of a city each one calls home.