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“The current responses to the overdose crisis, which is really a national public health emergency of toxic drug poisonings, are insufficient as they fail to address the structural inequities among PWUD including racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples. Many are impacted by poverty, racism, trauma, criminalization, incarceration, and a lack of safe supply of drugs. Thousands of people are dying from toxic drugs, more so than ever before, particularly since measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have isolated people from services and supports. The global pandemic has also disrupted supply routes of illegal substances, resulting in a more concentrated and contaminated supply. We need to have a safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives verses the toxic street drugs. To avoid past policy failures, any effective response must be guided by the people who are most affected and know best, that is, the people who use drugs and their families.”
“Safe Supply is an intrinsic and essential harm reduction implementation that supports people who use drugs, saving lives while visibly displaying the dignity owed to folks who use drugs simply by it being established as a fixture in the institution of Public Health. Safe Supply saves lives, and my life is included in the many it has saved and will continue to save.”
“People who use drugs lead the way: ‘Harm reduction is a dynamic response to a fundamentally hostile world- not a set of practices to be learned and repeated (which can fail when institutionalized & removed from everyday life). It’s an approach, a strategy of resistance that at its best can build justice and love.*’”
(*quoting Karen Ward, Drug User Activist)
“Safer Supply needs to become more widely accepted and available as the toxic drug supply is changing at increasingly higher rates and along with that comes a variety of negative issues for people who use drugs. As Safer Supply programs are expanded, the stigma in the community should decrease and allow people who use drugs to be treated like humans. There are many improvements to be made to Safer Supply, but all in all, this movement is not just about a safe way to obtain the drugs that someone uses in order to decrease the need for an unregulated Supply, it’s also one step towards re-initiating our human rights to safety from unnecessary death.”
“Everybody needs a safe place and a safe drug to use!”
Matthew Bonn is a Program Coordinator with the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs (CAPUD), National Board Member of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP), Board Member of the International Network of Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU), and a knowledge translator for the Dr. Peter Centre. His freelance writing has appeared in publications including The Conversation, CATIE, Doctors Nova Scotia, Policy Options and The Coast. Matthew is also on Canada’s 64th Canadian Delegation on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He is a current drug user and a formerly incarcerated person.
“The risks of overdose deaths created by a toxic and unstable illegal drug supply have been exacerbated in recent months by the COVID-19 outbreak and the structural inequality and discrimination faced by communities based on racism, colonization, poverty and homelessness. Programs like the Downtown East Collaborative Safer Opioid Supply project along with supervised consumption and overdose prevention services are essential and life-saving. Programs like these support conditions for people who access them that reflect the need for a greater shift in drug policy, legislative reform/decriminalization, health equity and social justice.”
“We continue to be devastated by the overdose crisis, and this has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why the provision of safer opioid supply is so vital. We see safer supply as a necessary extension of the harm reduction work our Centre has been doing for decades. We are providing this service within an integrated care model that is committed to utilizing all tools available to us to address the structural determinants of health, like stigmatization, criminalization, and racism that impact the community of people who use drugs we serve at the Centre. This support for safer supply from the Federal government is the result of unrelenting advocacy by people who use drugs and harm reduction advocates, and the political will of a government who is striving to listen to those most at the margins.”
“I am a Nurse Practitioner in Downtown East Toronto. I have long worked with the IVDU population, first through Community Hep C treatment and now through Safer Opioid Supply. I continue to work supporting the community and advocating for improved service and, most importantly, the ability for drug users to live their lives the way they want safely and with dignity. Our ultimate goal is legalization of all drugs.”
millie (they/them) is a Peer Support Worker at the Victoria SAFER Initiative. millie is autistic, an autism self-advocate, an artist and a queer neurodivergent creative person.
Gabriel·le is a white, trans translator and language enthusiast based in Ktinékétolékouac (so-called Sherbrooke), unceded W8banaki territory. They have been providing linguistic services to the community sector for over 4 years wherein they prioritize accuracy, accessibility and inclusivity to align with their vision of language as a powerful tool for expressing fluid and complex
“Safer Supply—when co-designed, co-led and co-staffed by people who are illegalized drug users—is the most humane, meaningful and successful treatment strategy in the 160 year history of the drug rehab industry. Safer Supply is very close to the heart of Harm Reduction which, in its true definition, ‘is a philosophy and set of actions that tries to decrease and eliminate the harms associated with criminalization of drugs and drug users.*’ As a lifelong non-medical consumer of psychoactive drugs, an ardent Harm Reductionist and career frontline outreach worker for over a quarter-century, I see abundant proof that Safer Supply is highly effective at actively addressing and treating those harms.”
(*quoting Raffi Balian, 2012)
"I have been blessed with opportunities to work in various roles within the social service sector and have experienced first-hand the systemic barriers that PWUD face from the perspectives of someone accessing services as well as working to provide services in formal settings. One of the most valuable things to remember when interacting with others in any setting I find, is that each individual, no matter what we do, where we come from or why we are in the place that we are in our lives today, we all deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and humanity, without judgement. Everyone struggles in different ways and we all have a vice. A person should not be judged or shamed based on their use of drugs. As much as we are all equal, we are all unique and should be recognized and listened to as such. Safer supply continues to save lives of PWUD every day. Just because some people may not understand the value of this approach does NOT mean that it is ineffective as people who access safer supply are finally able to receive individualized care from providers who do not hesitate to do all that they can to support someone who uses drugs. We are people too."
“Nothing About Us Without Us”
This is the guiding principle of Natasha Touesnard, Executive Director of Canadian Association of People who use Drugs. Natasha strives to reduce the oppressive societal conditions people who use drugs face by raising their voices throughout the policymaking process. Natasha is a strong proponent of harm reduction and advocate for the respect of people who use drugs. She holds a commitment to people who use illegal drugs, who face insurmountable challenges due to drug prohibition-based laws and policies.
"I support Safer Supply because it not only saves lives but helps folks live better lives. I have a brother that is receiving Safe Supply. I am relieved that I no longer have to see him sick every day. I am relieved that he no longer has to steal or commit crime to get his drugs. I am relieved that he isn’t sitting in a jail cell because he had to do things against the law to survive. I support Safer Supply because it helps to reduce stigma and barriers for support"
"People who use drugs should not have to rely on a stigmatizing health care system to obtain uncontaminated substances that may save their lives. A public health approach that does not subject individuals to prescriber gate-keeping would ensure equitable, low-barrier access to a consistent safe supply of drugs."