Decriminalization or Legalization: How do we address the impact of drugs in our lives and communities?
Our University of the Streets Café public conversations are much like any you’d have with friends or family around a dinner table, except with more people, more points of view, and slightly more structure. Conversations are hosted by a volunteer moderator who is there to welcome everyone and keep things on track. To get things started, there’s a guest, or sometimes two, who get the ball rolling by sharing their ideas, experiences and questions. After that, it's all up to the participants.
Are we ready to move towards decriminalizing drugs in Canada? While Canada recently legalized marijuana, Prime Minister Trudeau has indicated he is not prepared to go further and legalize or decriminalize any other drugs. Our country is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of overdose, where this year we will see the deaths of 3000 people due to opioid overdose. Harm reduction advocates have been calling for the decriminalization of all drugs and to end the war on drugs as a way to effectively address the opioid overdose crisis. But moralism, fear and stigma towards drugs and the people who use them continue to stand in the way of sensible policy. This interactive conversation will discuss examples of drug legalization, decriminalization and the impacts of the ongoing war on drugs to address the pros and cons of different approaches.
Alexander McClelland is a writer and researcher who is currently working on a doctorate at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, Concordia University. He is a Concordia 2017-2018 Public Scholar. His work focuses on the intersections of life, law and disease. He has developed a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary writing, academic, artistic projects to address issues of criminalization, sexual autonomy, surveillance, drug liberation, and the construction of knowledge on HIV and AIDS.
Zoë Dodd is a Hep C Program Coordinator at South Riverdale and Regent Park Community Health Centres where she spent the last decade facilitating Hepatitis C support groups that are rooted in popular education and harm reduction. She is member of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society who recently established a unsanctioned overdose prevention site in downtown Toronto's Moss Park. Earlier this year she was invited by Vice News to a town hall on marijuana legalization with Prime Minster Justine Trudeau where she confronted him on the issue of the decriminalization of all drugs. She is also an active member of the Toronto Harm Reduction Worker’s Union. As a feminist, anticapitalist, and drug-user activist she been working on issues of harm reduction, Hep C, poverty and HIV for well over a decade.
Jean-François Mary is currently director of the Quebec Association for health promotion of people who use drugs (AQPSUD), the provincial drug user association. AQPSUD runs a provincial magazine by and for people who use drugs, L’Injecteur, since 2006 as well as various health promotion material realised based on lived experience and solely produced by people who use drugs. AQPSUD is also a rights defense groups a right defense groups which acts at the provincial and regional levels. Jean-François has been active in the field of harm reduction, rights defense, homelessness and social & community housing for the last 10 years.
Andrea Clarke is currently the Director at Head & Hands, a community organization that provides legal, social and medical services to youth age 12 to 25 while striving to prioritise accessibility, harm reduction and non-judgement. She has worked in public health care for over a decade while studying cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and finally business administration. Her transition into the community sector is relatively recent, and was driven by a desire to put her knowledge to good use, and to work in a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment.
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