Chief sends a warning to Sam Sullivan

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How many people in Vancouver have ever given money to a panhandler, knowing that these funds will probably be used to buy drugs? How many nondrug users have ever been in the presence of others, perhaps family members, as they consumed illegal drugs?

That number is probably in the tens of thousands. Yet Vancouver police Chief Jamie Graham has decided that only one of those residents, mayor-elect Sam Sullivan, deserves to be reviewed by the RCMP for giving someone money to buy drugs and watching them consume them in his presence.

Here's how the story has been told so far. As a city councillor several years ago, Sullivan said was he curious to learn more about drug addiction. He has made no secret that he thinks addicts have a disability and that their condition should be viewed as an illness.

Sullivan admitted that on some occasions, he gave money to addicts, including a sex-trade worker, so they could buy drugs and alleviate the symptoms of their illness. Sullivan said that he once observed an addict buy drugs and then watched him smoke crack in his van.

Sullivan's opponents at Vision Vancouver, many of whom belong to the provincial NDP, tried to make a huge issue of this in the recent muni?cipal election, particularly within the Chinese-speaking community. There were suggestions that Sullivan wasn't fit for the mayor's office because he gave someone money that was used to buy drugs. There were dark hints that Sullivan had been involved in a major scandal because he watched one of those addicts consume drugs.

This didn't register with the Vancouver electorate, who tired of the war on drugs many years ago. But the message obviously resonated with Chief Graham-a former RCMP officer who has a warm relationship with another former RCMP officer, Mayor Larry Campbell.

On November 29, Graham told reporters that he was so alarmed by Sullivan's actions that he contacted the Mounties. Graham did it during an election campaign. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. John Ward let the reporters know that officers were looking into it. The incoming mayor of Vancouver is being scrutinized for giving money to addicts, who bought drugs. Quelle scandale.

How convenient for Graham. As mayor, Sullivan chairs the police board and, in effect, becomes one of Graham's bosses. By siccing the Mounties on Sullivan, Graham has sent an early warning that Sullivan had better not get too uppity and start messing with police budget requests.

The RCMP review is also convenient for Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, who is often cited as a potential challenger for the mayor's office in 2008. Mayor Campbell, chair of the police board, has been one of Louie's biggest supporters. Louie and the three other Vision Vancouver councillors will reap political benefits with the law-and-order crowd as long as this story remains in the news.

The Vision Vancouver caucus has a choice. The four members-Louie, Tim Stevenson, George Chow, and Heather Deal-can stand on the sidelines and watch the spectacle. Or they can demonstrate some political maturity and criticize the RCMP for wasting police resources on a frivolous matter when there are surely more important policing priorities. If Vision Vancouver councillors choose the latter course, they'll demonstrate to the public that they're finally moving out of the shadow of their party's real founder, former drug cop Larry Campbell.