In memory of Bud Osborn

It is with a heavy heart that I write about the death of Bud Osborn. He was a true hero to a community we know as the Downtown Eastside, but far beyond that, he inspired and gave hope to our city, and many people across the country.

I knew Bud for many years and he was a dear, close friend. When times were dark and people felt hopeless; he gave us hope. When people felt they had no voice; his poetry raised many voices and gave people courage. When people yearned for  belonging and community; he led by example and united people in a common cause for human dignity and respect.

Bud was such a key part in the struggle for the rights of drug users and the need for INSITE. I have no doubt, that none of the incredible changes we have seen, would have taken place had Bud not lead the way forward.

I saw the times he was exhausted, overwhelmed, and deeply concerned about lack of action by governments – but he never wavered and he never rested. How many times did he speak to us at rallies, gatherings, and events – often with a specially composed poem – so that WE could gain understanding and strength to speak out and act together.

I remember the times that people would fall silent as they listened intently to each and every word he spoke as like a prayer – and it was as though he spoke to each of us personally and deeply. Such is the impact this man had.

He influenced and persuaded, in the most honourable way, elected representatives, academics, bureaucrats, journalists, and business people to stop the madness of the so called “war on drugs”. He spoke the truth – always – and without equivocation. 

Most of all though, his greatest impact was his life’s work for and with those without voice. He led by example and showed people that they could speak out, be heard and change the course of history. To the many who were marginalized, criminalized, and hopeless – he changed their lives with friendship, compassion and love.

Bud’s extraordinary work in founding groups like VANDU, is significant and lasting.

I saw Bud only a few days before he died as he prepared to leave the hospital. It amazed me that his great sense of humour was always present – even in difficult times. He was laughing softly about his experience in the hospital. We all thought he was heading home to get better. But this was not to be.

As we grieve it is Bud’s words that give us comfort:

“when eagles circle oppenheimer park

we see them

feel awe

feel joy

feel hope soar in our hearts

the eagles are symbols for the courage in our spirits for the fierce and piercing vision for justice in our souls”