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04/16/2018 08:41 EDT | Updated 04/16/2018 09:56 EDT

Dear Liberal Party: To Help End Overdose Death Crisis, Decriminalize Now

We urge you to be the progressive government you promised to be, choosing human rights and evidence-based policy over ideological relics.

Blair Gable / Reuters
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Dear Liberal party members, members of Parliament and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

Last year alone, more than 4,000 Canadians died from overdose, according to federal health estimates. These deaths were preventable. Close to 6,000 more will have died by the end of this year if the year-to-year 45 per cent rate of increase continues. If the government had heeded the advice of those with lived experience, those working directly with those at-risk, and experts in public health, this crisis would not have grown the way it has. We continue to call for evidence-based, compassionate drug policies.

We recognize this government's efforts to address the overdose epidemic: additional federal funding for treatment; regulatory changes to broaden the distribution of Naloxone; approving licensing for supervised consumption services; and providing a more enabling framework for overdose prevention sites.

Canada is losing more people to overdose than at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

These may go some way to mitigating the harm in the midst of this public health emergency. However, these measures are insufficient, as the crisis is currently worsening. Canada is losing more people to overdose than at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The devastating effect of this crisis has left thousands of Canadian families and communities forever impacted by the loss of their loved ones to overdose. Our country as a whole can expect long-lasting social, cultural and economic impacts of losing thousands of people. Meanwhile, people who use substances continue to experience unjust reductions in quality of life resulting from incarceration, criminal records and systemic discrimination.

We urge you to be the progressive government you promised to be, choosing human rights and evidence-based policy over ideological relics. A resolution for sensible drug policy is on the agenda at the April 2018 federal Liberal convention. We wholly support this resolution and urge that you accept it as a party policy and quickly advance legislation to decriminalize low-level possession in accordance with that policy.

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The proposed motion, "Address the Opioid Crisis Through a Public Health Approach," states that, "The Government of Canada should treat drug abuse as a health issue, expand treatment and harm reduction services and re-classify low-level drug possession and consumption as administrative violations."

As the world watches dated and harmful North American drug policies translate into the toxic drug market that experts predicted, we look to the sensible approaches of Portugal, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Norway and others as examples that demonstrate a truly effective approach to health. We would expect a government that holds the dignity of people as a central value to adopt the proposed policy resolution in the interests of the public's health and safety. There is no excuse for delay.

As representatives, direct-service workers, family members, people who use drugs, professionals and researchers in related fields of health care and public health, and other citizens who have been impacted by this crisis, we demand our federal government act on our experiential and expert knowledge and that our elected officials do not further delay an effective and timely response to this heath emergency.

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We see the fatal impact of the criminalization of people who use drugs every day in our communities. As a result of the stigmas perpetuated by prohibition, we have a system which discriminates, oppresses, and continues to marginalize some of our country's most vulnerable populations.

The overdose death crisis we currently face is a public health emergency and needs to be treated as such: as a health care issue, and not an epidemic of criminal behaviour. The impacts are not only on affected individuals, but the wider social and economic health of the country as well.

We need you to listen to our voices as we call for the essential next step: decriminalization. The example of Portugal and other European countries illustrates that this policy works.

We ask you to prevent thousands of more unnecessary deaths by supporting this resolution.

Sincerely,

Organizational Signatories

BC Civil Liberties Association

Canadian Association of Social Workers

Criminalization and Punishment Education Project

Families of Sisters in Spirit

Harm Reduction Nurses Association

Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

keepSix - Supervised Consumption Services (Toronto)

Moms Stop The Harm

Overdose Prevention Ottawa

Overdose Prevention Society Vancouver

PIVOT Legal Society

Say Know - Drug Education Project Non-Profit

Individual Signatories

Adam Keller

Alexandra Belanger

Alexandra Collins - British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, Research Assistant; Simon Fraser University, PhD Candidate

Alexis Shotwell

Alice Maguire - Social Worker

Andrea Reimer- City Councillor

Angela James - business owner

Angela Welz

Ann Murray

Anna Cooper - Pivot Legal Society, Staff Lawyer

Anne Marie Lasuta

Anthony

Arij Riahi - Lawyer

Arlene Last-Kolb - Moms Stop The Harm Chapter leader Manitoba

Bernadette Lettner - Hep C treatment nurse

bita mary eslami - Heads and Hands

Bob Rae

Brenda Warner - Retired

Brent Pierce

Brian Henderson - Retired Director, Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Bruce Robinson - Self employed

Caitlin Shane - Lawyer, Pivot Legal Society

Candace Day Neveau

Carey Linde - lawyer

Carol Mackie - Mother of an overdose victim

Carrie Ann - Sasktel

Casey Hrynkow - Masters student, SFU

Cathy Crowe - Street Nurse

Charene Monk

Charlene Winger

Cheryl Wagstaff

Christine Bossley

Clara Casucci-McLeod - Aunt to my nephew, Jordan

Clare Keast

Corinne Chapman - Mother of Bradley Chapman who died of an overdose in 2015

Corinne Woods - Moms Stop The Harm

Dalene Bodechon

Dan Warner - Retired

Dana Dmytro

darlana treloar - Moms Stop the Harm

Darlene Augustson - The Compassionate Friends of Vernon

David Juurlink - Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto

Dr. Dawn Moore - Associate Professor, Carleton University

Debbie Lewis - Mother of daughter who died from fentanyl poisoning

Deborah Gatenby

Deborah Watson - MSTH

Delia Cassatini - Mother and Grandmother, Retired

Denise Marie Vandal

Dennis Long - Breakaway Addiction Services

Diane Hannah - MSTH

Diane McNally - Parent; Public Education School Trustee

Dianne Martin - Chief Executive Officer, Registered Practical Nurses of Ontario

Dominique Adams - RN

Donald MacPherson - Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Dr. Dorothy Bakker - University of Guelph, Student Health, Physician; McMaster University, Associate Clinical Professor

Emilie Taman - Replacement professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Common Law

Emily Jenkins - University of British Columbia, School of Nursing, Assistant Professor

Evelyn Violini

Felix Attard

Fernand Magnin - Retired teacher, father of a girl who died from Fentanyl poisoning

Gary Barwin

Gaylene Lalonde

Geoff Bardwell, PhD - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia; BC Centre on Substance Use

Gerry Pearpoint

Glen Leiper – Parent

Greg Macdougall

Gregor Robertson - Mayor, City of Vancouver

Hakique Virani - Clinical Assistant Prof - University of Alberta; Medical Director - Metro City Medical Clinics

Hayley Munroe Craig - Karmik/Owner & Co-Founder & Outreach Director

Heather Fookes - Mother

Ingrid Guillet

Irene Paterson - Moms Stop the Harm

Iris Youngberg

Jamie Hucul

Jamie Whittaker

Jan Christianson-Wood - Canadian Association of Social Workers, President

Jane Harding - Moms Stop the Harm

Janice Abbott - CEO, Atira Women's Resource Society/Atira Group of Women-Serving Agencies

Janine Violini - Administrative Consultant and Trainer

Jason McGrath

Jen Ko - RCHC / RN / TOPS / Coordinator

Jenna Valleriani - Strategic Advisor, CSSDP; Post-doctoral fellow

Jennifer Kilty - Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa

Jennifer Windsor

Jia Hu

Jill Robinson - Clinical Psychology Graduate Student

Jim Belanger

Jonathan Gormick

Joseph Casucci - Father of 4 children

Julie Vail

Kapri Rabin - Street Health, Executive Director

Karen Cettiga

Kari Ursulescu - Medicine Hat Drug Coalition

Kathleen Scott - Self employed

Kathy Wagner

Kelly White - Street Health

Kevin Hollett - BC Centre on Substance Use

Kim Leclerc - Mom

Kim Pare

Dr. Kora DeBeck - Simon Fraser University, Assistant Professor

krishna e bera - individual

Laura Day

laurel keating - MSTH

Leigh Chapman - Toronto Overdose Prevention Society

Leila Attar - Co-Organizer at Overdose Prevention Ottawa

Leslie McBain - co-founder Moms Stop the Harm

Linda Belanger - MSTH

Linda Schaeffer - MSTH

Lindsey Richardson - University of British Columbia / Assistant Professor

Lisa Reinbolt - Grieving mother

Lisa Wright

Lise Loubert - Physician

Liz Singh - Streetworker - Head and Hands

Lorna Thomas - Moms Stop The Harm, Co-founder

Luisa Rotella

Lyn Firth - Lyn Firth Counselling for women; Registered Professional Counsellor

Lynn Mather - Retired social worker and addictions counsellor

M-J Milloy, PhD - BC Centre on Substance Use / Research scientist

Margaret McGregor - Physician

Marie-Eve Sylvestre - Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Marilou Gagnon

Marion Wright - Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services, Executive Director

Martha Jackman - Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Mary

Matt Ingrouille - Say Know - Drug Education Project / Founder / Director

Matthew Witt - Member: Moms Stop The Harm

Maureen Christensen - Mother of deceased son (2017)

Megan Lowry - Toronto Overdose Prevention Society

Melanie Spence

Mellany Buryska - Social Worker

Michael Spratt - Partner, Abergel Goldstein & Partners

Micheal Vonn - BC Civil Liberties Association / Policy Director

Michelle Thiessen - Researcher

Naomi A

Natalie Kallio - Coordinator, keepSIX Supervised Consumption Services, South Riverdale Community Health Centre

Nick Boyce - Ontario HIV and Substance Use Training Program / Director

Nick Etches

Niki Lucas

Patricia Hamilton - Moms Stop The Harm

Patrick Adams

Patrick McKenna - Ottawa Salus, Case Manager

Peter Kim - Pivot Legal Society

Petra Schulz - Moms Stop The Harm, Co-Founder

Rajdeep Kandola - Physician Lead East Calgary Family Care Clinic

Rebecca Saah - University of Calgary

Rhonda Carter - Service

Rhonda Tremblay - Alberta Health Services

Robert Casucci - Teacher

Robert Fitzpatrick - Hope For Freedom Society Shelter Worker Supervisor

Roxie Danielson - Inner City Family Health Team / Registered Nurse

Dr. Roy Male

Russell Maynard - PHS community Services Society, Senior Management

Ruth Verkerk - Patient Voices Network of BC

Ryan McNeil - Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, UBC

Sajida Afridi - Metro City Medical Clinic/Physician

Sandeep Prasad - Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights / Executive Director

sarah blyth - Overdose Prevention Society

Sarah Sheridan

Sarah Stewart - Owner, Open Minds Mental Health Education and Training

Sean Winger - Educator PWLE

Sharon Findley

Shawn Simmonds

Sheila Horst

Sheila Jennings - Doctoral Student, Osgoode Hall Law School

Shellee Pilgrim

Sherry Robinson

Dr. Stacy Douglas - Assistant Professor, Law & Legal Studies, Carleton University

Stanislav Kupferschmidt - Harm Reduction Outreach Worker/ SWCHC

Stephanie Gasbarrino

Stephanie Lake - PhD Student, UBC; Member of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP)

Stephanie McCune

Susan Boyd - University of Victoria, Professor

Susan Laurin

Susan Robblee - Moms Stop the Harm

Sydney Simmonds

Sylvia Mennear - Mother of deceased son

Tara Lee Romeo - Beyond 12 Steps Healing Treatment Center Program Director

Tave Cole - Toronto Overdose Prevention Society

Taylor Fleming - BC Centre on Substance Use

Theresa Simmonds

Tim Strain

Vanessa

Victor Willis - PARC/Executive Director

Vikki Reynolds, PhD RCC - Clinical Supervisor

Wanda Menzies - Registered Nurse

Wendy Fleming

Wendy Piccott - Account Manager

Zoë Dodd

Read the original open letter here.

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