Decriminalization of Drugs & Substances in Canada

Decriminalization of Drugs & Substances in Canada

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Addiction Workers for Informed Drug Policy started this petition to Chief Mark Saunders

Dear Chief Saunders,

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to listen to the experts when it comes to matters of public health. Unlike our American neighbours, Canada’s leaders have mitigated the impacts of Covid-19 because they set aside personal and political opinions, and followed the advice of professionals like Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen DeVilla. Lives have been saved thanks to this level-headed, evidence-informed approach.

In 2018, Dr. DeVilla made a very different evidence-based recommendation in a report calling on our Government to treat drug use as a public health problem, rather than a criminal one. Unfortunately, her life-saving recommendations fell on deaf ears.

Chief Saunders, we are calling on you to be a champion of the research-based advice of our medical experts. We are calling on you to seize the opportunity that was squandered in 2018, and add your respected voice to those calling for the decriminalization of drug use.

The criminalization of drugs and substances in Canada has not fulfilled its purpose. It has fed and maintained the very health and social issues that it was instituted to address. Members of our most marginalized communities have been the undeserving victims of a policy that makes it a crime to suffer from a substance use disorder. People living in poverty or experiencing homelessness, people living with mental illness, Indigenous Peoples, and other racialized groups are being systematically pushed to the outer limits of our society rather than being afforded the services they need and deserve as Canadians.

Instead of receiving necessary addiction and mental health supports and services, individuals with substance use disorders are leaving correctional facilities with a brand-new barrier to their recovery -- the lifelong stigma of a criminal record. This significantly impedes an individual’s ability to earn a livelihood. We cannot, as a society, continue to expect an individual to reintegrate successfully into a community when they have been stripped of all the social determinants of health.

An individual does not develop a substance use disorder because of some innate criminality or a lack of moral character. We now understand it to be the result of interconnected biological, psychological, and sociological factors. Due to its complex nature, drug use is a problem that can only be effectively addressed by the roots. Under Canada’s current policy, our criminal justice system is expected to address this complex health problem without any of the knowledge or skills needed to reach its roots. This is a misguided expectation that hurts our society’s most marginalized members and hangs law enforcement officers out to dry in the court of public opinion.

As you move from public to private life, your sphere of influence will shift. Though you will no longer have direct control of the Toronto Police Service, your power to advocate and influence policy direction and political decision making will never have been greater. You have given your entire professional life in service to your community, a community that needs you more than ever. Now, we ask that you give the power of your new private influence in service by joining us in calling on the Federal Government to decriminalize personal drug use. Help us take a public health problem out of the hands of the criminal justice system and place it where it belongs -- in the hands of medical and mental health professionals.

To learn more about our work and the research supporting it, please visit us at https://addictionworkersforinformeddru.godaddysites.com/.

Sincerely,

The Addiction Workers for Informed Drug Policy

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