Sarah Elizabeth DeRoo died in December, 2020 from a poisoned drug supply in the #DTES. She was only 50 years old. She was smart, kind, generous and beautiful. When we met, she was a teenager who was already using opiates to moderate internal pain.
She was a manager in a small company. She was productive, creative and generous with friends. It is no surprise to see her sharing food with people at an enormous protest to advocate for peace in 1986. She strove to make the world a better and more caring place.
She was talented and creative. Together we enjoyed writing and reading poetry and listening to music. She would give me notes carefully and elegantly written by hand. She gave everything she could to her friends and the community around her.
She was particularly kind to me. Perhaps one of the most gentle people I knew. She helped me cope with loss and grief and we struggled closely together for several years. Meanwhile, the consequences of a system that criminalized us made life more and more difficult.
She told me about some of the obstacles she had faced. She suffered racist abuse because of her Japanese ancestry. She was happy when we went to visit the town where her family had been interned in the 40s. It was a ruin: the rotten fruit of a racist settler society.
She helped me find a better path but told me that she was not worthy of the same. She said I should not love her. She said she was not worthy of happiness. She was exposed to the abuses of a misogynist drug supply system and the police who use that system for their own benefit.
She was strong and careful and survived thirty years in a system designed to kill her. She needed care and compassion in a community that would support people with multiple traumas. She had friends who cared for her deeply but the community itself is under siege.
I got out. Maybe the support she gave me made the difference. Support systems privileged me as a white male. Maybe I just got lucky. At one point, we were at the same place. I choose to channel my survivor’s guilt into rage at a profoundly abusive system.
Dylan Thomas implored his dying father: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. But now I can only wish a gentle passing for Sarah. And I will rage against the dying of her light.
So many solutions are so simple. Stop arresting drug users! Cover the costs of drugs instead of the cost of drug prohibition! #HarmReduction#DefundThePolice#MutualAid The salary of one cop could pay for three decent jobs for people to actually help each other!
Listen to drug users and their allies! Stop advocating the death of your children, your friends, your neighbours! Drugs are not a moral issue. They are products and symptoms of a profoundly unbalanced society. Everyone deserves a home, food and social support.