rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Ashlie Gough, Occupy Vancouver and the mayor

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Ashlie Gough is dead. We don't know why this young woman from Victoria came to Occupy Vancouver, but her death has already sent reverberations across the Vancouver electoral landscape and the global occupation movement. In an astonishing show of non-partisanship, political rivals Suzanne Anton and Gregor Robertson have united to demand the end of the occupation in the interests of safety, security and the public good.

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the organization which published the 2011 Lancet article corroborating the success of InSite, found that 62 people died of drug-related overdoses in Vancouver in 2009, and that women are twice as vulnerable to overdose as men. The medic who treated the near-overdose on Thursday evening stated that there were 125 drug overdoses in the Downtown Eastside which resulted in deaths last year, a statistic that has been widely reported in the wake of Ashlie's death. While the medic's statement is unsubstantiated, clearly far too many people are dying preventable deaths in Vancouver. Yet how many of these deaths resulted in the kind of decisive action Mayor Gregor Robertson showed when he declared that Occupy Vancouver must vacate the art gallery lawn? Precisely zero.

Two months ago, a woman was thrown out of the sixth-floor window at the Regent Hotel on Hastings street by a drug dealer -- the second such death in a year. Did Mayor Robertson step in and demand that the owners of the Regent provide security and shelter for its residents or face fines and imprisonment? Incredibly, no. Even before Ashlie's death, the mayor and the Vancouver Police Department were showing an staggering amount of concern for the Occupiers' compliance of city by-laws, while the slum lords who profit from the legislated poverty of DTES residents flout these restrictions daily.

The occupation offers warm, convivial shelter based on solidarity and caring. A volunteer kitchen has been distributing food since the occupation began. Furthermore, as a babbler recently pointed out, the homeless and the addicted have as much right to demonstrate as anyone else. While Occupy Vancouver demands a democracy that is accountable, transparent and just, the two opposing mayoral candidates for Vancouver's upcoming municipal election have come out in lockstep, both demanding the end of the occupation. And yet they wonder why millions of Canadians have given up on our cynical electoral system which offers us only distinction without difference, choice without option.

Not only are Mayor Robertson's public hand-wringing and Suzanne Anton's calls for tough action deeply disingenuous, they are also remarkably short-sighted. From New York to Oakland, repressive and undemocratic attempts to bring the global occupy movement to a premature end has without exception resulted in reinvigorated public sympathy and increased numbers. Anyone who has witnessed the belief, the conviction present in the occupation, resonating in any number of cities across this continent, immediately recognize two things: people are powerful, and they cannot be stopped.

Make no mistake: Ashlie Gough's death is tragic, and the whole city should mourn that such a young life was lost, more so that it was preventable. The occupation only asks that every such injustice summons the same outcry, the same demand for change from our public figures, and the same appeals to social welfare, the commonwealth and the promise of democracy.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.