You reap what you paint

The Skids

The Vancouver Fire Department is removing an "inappropriate" mural at its Downtown Eastside fire hall following an inquiry by Public Eye. The mural, which was installed by firefighters at that hall 15 years ago, shows the Grim Reaper carrying a scythe with the words "The Skids" on its blade, which ends in a dripping hypodermic needle. "It's not the end of the world but we can see it from here," reads the caption underneath the mural.

It's a message at odds with the provincial government and the City of Vancouver's efforts to revitalize the Downtown Eastside and showcase government programs that have been launched to address homeless issues in that neighborhood.

When contacted about the mural last week, fire department spokesperson Steve Laleune said it has "been there so long that we even forget it's there" - later referring to it as being "like part of the furniture."

But Mr. Laleune acknowledged, "It's probably something we need to deal with today."

An hour later he phoned back with news the mural - which is installed on the hall's back wall but visible from the street - had been covered up and a work order would be submitted to remove it.

"It's inappropriate. It doesn't represent the Downtown Eastside at all," he stated.

Laleune said the mural was among several that were painted at some city's fire halls in the mid-nineties to illustrate their then-nicknames - in this case, "The Skids."

At the time, the spokesperson continued, that mural - which wasn't part of a department-approved program - "was maybe acceptable."

"It's a bit of black humour is what it was," Mr. Laleune explained, adding, "It's a badge of honour to be down here and work this area - they are one of the busiest halls."

That being said, though, "it definitely is not acceptable from the city's standpoint now. And my chief went a little red in the face" when he found about Public Eye's call.

"The whole area has changed dramatically in the last two or three years since we've been working with people rather than against them," he said, adding the fire halls now have different city-designated names.


Could someone please explain to me just what the issue is here? Does anyone dispute that drug use - whether delivered by hypdodermic syringe or otherwise - has a disturbing tendency to draw the attention of the Grim Reaper?

Or is it the use of the term "skids". If so, give over! I've lived in Vancouver all my life and - until recently - the Downtown Eastside has always been called Skid Row. (It still is, privately.)

My understanding of the term "Skid Row" is that it derives from the skids or slides that lumbermen used to use to transport tree trunks down the sides of mountains. Since many of these lumbermen resided in the old port, the area became known as Skid Row.

It acquired a negative connotation due to the alcholism that was rampant among lumbermen, many of whom were injured or disabled due to the dangerous conditions of their work.

The DTES or Skid Row is nothing new. I can remember its sadness and squallor as a little kid in the 1950's when my parents would drive us downtown to buy school clothes at the Army & Navy or groceries at the Woodwards food floor.

a) So what's the big deal?

b) Once again, Sean Holman finds his way to make history where so many other journos just lay in a hammock. Never ever count the little guy (e.g. Polak, Holman) out! No exceptions!! :-)


Well done at making yourselves look like ridiculous whiners, instead of doing something meaningful. Pat yourselves on the back whilst you collect your trust funds.

Once again David Eby and his left wing island of misfit toys have placed the jester hat firmly on King Eby's head. A person will see far worse on a one block walk down Hastings Street. Surely there are more important hills to conquer in the DMZ known as the down town east side. The poverty pimps have done little more than blame society for individual problems. A firm, proactive approach needs to be taken and enabling substance abusers has to come to an end. A million dollars a day is spent in the down town east side and it has done nothing but expand in population. A phrase from the movie Field of Dreams comes to mind, "if you build it, they will come".

I agree, sending hard drug addicts to jail is not a solution but treatment centers have to be available and mandatory treatment should be the first sentencing option of the courts. Dealers on the other hand, deportation for those who are not Canadian citizens and lengthy prison sentences for those who are. Sentences should double upon every conviction so that mathematically upon the third conviction, a fourth will not be necessary.

Insite, safe injection sites, safe inhalation sites and other similar ideas are a farce. Providing an addict with a clean needle and safe environment to inject completely unsanitary drug cobbled together in a bathtub at some clandestine lab completely defies logic. This system has created a booming economy for drug dealers.

The mental ill that were released from riverside so they would have their freedom should be a priority. They desperately need support and should be the first in line when the east side is triaged. Those who can not look after themselves take priority over those who make poor life decisions. I'm sure all those rose colored glasses wearing folk that campaigned for their release sleep much better in their warm Kits beach homes. The mentally ill, they sleep in urine soaked blankets in the doorways of the down town east side. Whats more despicable, limiting their freedom and keeping them warm, fed and healthy or allowing them to sleep in alleys with the rats and self medicate with street drugs.

We are far too warped up in the charter of rights that was handed down by Pierre Trudeau and not carried down the mountain by Moses. How can you have a charter of rights without an equally weighty charter of responsibilities. If David Eby genuinely cared about the people of east side and not just his egos and feeling good about himself he would fund raise for treatment centers. David, stop worrying about innocuous art on the walls of those who actually do make a difference.

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