Gerald (Spike) Peachey, a longtime Downtown Eastside resident and safe drug use advocate, has died at the age of 55.
Sarah Blyth, executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society, says Peachey represented the Downtown Eastside community with his activism.
"He was a really, really big champion of overdose prevention," said Blyth, who met Peachey almost 10 years ago.
Blyth told Early Edition host Stephen Quinn that Peachey was one of the first volunteers at the Overdose Prevention Society, he spoke as an advocate for many organizations, and was a contributor at Megaphone Magazine.
Another friend of Peachey's, Kevin King, who is a founding member of OPS, described Peachey as "a warm, gentle character, with a heart of gold." King says Peachey's death came as a complete shock to him as he had seen him the day before.
"He was always a big activist for removing the stigma of being an addict. And basically his main goal was to be able to walk side by side with normal people just like anyone else and not be judged or looked down upon," King said.
Peachey even took a shot at city council when he ran as an independent candidate in 2018 with the slogan "put a Spike through Vancouver City Hall."
"He cared really deeply and he did go to every different community. I mean, he campaigned harder than most people," Blyth said.
Nicholas Crier got to know Peachey through Megaphone Magazine in 2016. He says he will always remember him for his eccentric style and personality.
"Prayers to his family and all of his friends, probably hundreds of friends in the world. He'll be severely missed here. And we won't forget you or your hair or your top hat." Crier said.
As the overdose crisis continues to worsen in B.C., Blyth says the loss of Peachey will be felt by everyone in the community.
"We really can't afford to lose voices like Spike because, you know, there's still so much stigma."
In April, B.C. marked five years since declaring a public health emergency due to overdose deaths. The provincial government announced soon after that they are taking steps to become the first province in the country to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.
Jessica Hannon, former executive director with Megaphone Magazine, worked closely with Peachey over the years. She believes that the thousands of overdose deaths during the crisis could have been avoided if it weren't for the stigma around drug use.
"We need to keep pushing forward. We need to say this is not acceptable and that people deserve better and we need decriminalization that is led by drug users," Hannon said.
"I think that's what I'll remember about Spike, is that he would want us to keep fighting."
Listen to Sarah Blyth talk about Gerald (Spike) Peachey's advocacy to eliminate the stigma of drug use: