Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Letter to the Works and John Howard Society Re: Partnership with the Police.

Disclaimer: We encourage all those opposed to this partnership to contact the Works, and John Howard directly.  Please voice your opposition. This pilot project needs to end.
December 21, 2015

Atten: Shaun Hopkins
Manager, The Works

Toronto Public Health

Amber Kellen
Director of Community Initiatives, Policy and Research

The John Howard Society of Toronto

We are writing you regarding the current pilot “Street Outreach” project with the John Howard Society, The Works and the Toronto Police Services. After discussions with Shaun,  it is our impression that this is a referral based outreach pilot project in partnership with plain clothes police officers. We are disappointed and dismayed by this project and are fearful of its ramifications and are asking for its immediate discontinuation.

Decades of trust has been built in this city between people who use drugs and front line harm reduction workers. This trust is being broken every day that this project continues. We do not need to explain why bringing undercover officers on outreach is problematic. The police is the most comprehensive tool in reinforcing prohibition and we know you comprehend the magnitude of the negative role the police play in the lives of people who use drugs.  As professionals working in harm reduction, you should already be aware of these problematic dynamics.

We would like to see an end to this project. It was never an appropriate partnership and we are incredibly concerned by the damage this is causing. We do not want people to be fearful of calling the Works to access harm reduction supplies and or overdose prevention. We have heard claims that this project has had a few meaningful responses. Those small meaningful responses cannot be measured against the large negative impacts this project is having.  And these impacts are not limited to The Works and the harm reduction programs it sponsors.  There is real danger that people who use drugs will generalize their distrust to all harm reduction and needle & syringe distribution programs in Toronto and beyond, increasing the risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other BBI among this vulnerable community. 

We would like to offer ourselves as a source for consultation for future projects. It is obvious that the implications and ramifications a project like this could have were not thought through. We would like to help you think these through in the future so that we do not find ourselves in an adversarial role.  We want to work in solidarity with TPH, towards a common goal.. In the meantime we ask that this project is terminated immediately and that both the Works and the John Howard Society act quickly to repair the damage that has been created by this partnership with the most coercive tool of prohibition.  This project has to stop before people who use drugs in this city become more fearful of accessing any of the needle and syringe distribution programs in Toronto and beyond.

On behalf of the Toronto Drug Users Union

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Everybody Uses Drugs....

Everybody uses drugs. Alcohol, antihistamines or heroin ... all of us put substances into our bodies to make us feel better sometimes ...

Drugs: A Community Dialogue
with Dr. Gabor Maté

Join us to discuss with Dr. Gabor Maté topics like stigma, discrimination, and criminalization; the impact of trauma, well-being and self-medication; poverty, gentrification and services; and harm reduction.


Saturday June 8 from 12 sharp to 2 pm
All Saint's Church - Community Centre
315 Dundas St. East (corner of Sherbourne and Dundas)

This is a FREE event.

Food, refreshments, and childcare will be provided.
Space is limited and will be first come first served. Priority will be given to people who are homeless, under-housed or experiencing poverty.

This space is wheelchair accessible.

Dr. Maté is the author of a ground-shifting best-seller about addiction,
"In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts", and other compelling books about our brains and what drives them. For seven years he served as Medical Co-ordinator of the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital. More recently he worked for twelve years in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside neighbourhood with patients suffering from hard-core drug addiction, mental illness and HIV.


Sponsored by :
Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance
Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force - http://toharmreduction.org/
Canadian Harm Reduction Network - http://canadianharmreduction.com/

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Day Without Art - Poster Campaign AAN

AIDS ACTION NOW launched the POSTER/virus project last Wednesday night at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
AAN and Toronto Drug Users Union member Zoe Dodd talks about her collaborative poster made with with John Greyson on harm reduction and prisions for the AAN POSTER/virus project. Zoe addresses Bill-C 10 and Harper’s prison expansion (aka Canada’s National Housing Strategy), government perpetrated genocide through defunding the Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the collective passion and fighting we need to step up in order to act against these attacks on our communities

Watch the video here of Zoe's Speech.

CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS: Former federal prisoners and their family members/close friends (honorarium offered)

Hi all,

Please see the amended post below, with an extended deadline, information about the honorarium, as well as expanded criteria for participation.

Many thanks,

CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS: Former federal prisoners and their family members/close friends (honorarium offered)
Video Advocacy Project on Human Rights and Prison Needle/Syringe Programs

In Canada, rates of HIV and hepatitis C infections among prisoners are at least 10 and 30 times higher, respectively, than in the population as a whole.  One of the main reasons for this is the sharing of used needles to inject drugs.  Yet, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of prison-based needle and syringe programs (PNSPs), no Canadian prison permits the distribution of sterile injection equipment to prisoners.  Prisoners’ health has suffered as a result — a reality that is costly to public health and to the public purse.  It is also a violation of the human rights of prisoners.

This video advocacy project, being carried out by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (www.aidslaw.ca) and partners, will put a human face on the prison experience by interviewing both people previously incarcerated in federal prisons for a drug-related offence or who were dependent on drugs while in prison, and their family members and close friends.  We will hear firsthand how prison has affected the lives of prisoners and their loved ones, many of whom need treatment for their drug use or mental illness — not hard time, where they are more vulnerable to violence, overcrowding and blood-borne infections.

The Legal Network hopes to raise public awareness of the plight of Canadian prisoners through short, compelling video clips and commentary that highlight the fact that prisoners are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and contributing members of our community.  We want to explore how the failed “war on drugs” has impacted prisoners and their loved ones. 

We will interview five former prisoners and friends and family members of prisoners about how prison has affected them, and discuss how the absence of PNSPs continues to pose a threat to their loved ones’ health.  Because we are focusing our advocacy efforts on getting PNSPs in federal prisons, we will only be able to interview people who have done time in federal prisons and their friends or family members.  Once the video clips have been filmed, the Legal Network and partners will disseminate the clips on websites and through social media.  We hope that the general public and policy makers will come to see the importance of having PNSPs and change policy and laws. 

We are seeking individuals in the Toronto area only:

who have been incarcerated in a federal prison for a drug-related offence and/or while they were dependent on drugs;
who injected drugs behind bars; and
family members or friends of those individuals.

If you fit these criteria, email us by Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at: schu@aidslaw.ca with your phone number and tell us also:

  • What factors led to your (or your friend’s or family member’s) imprisonment?

  • What was your (or your friend’s or family member’s) experience injecting drugs behind bars? 

  • What message would you like to send policy makers about the importance of PNSPs?

  • Are you willing to appear on camera?

Given our limited budget, we can only feature five interviews of people fitting our criteria and we strive to interview men and women (including transgender men and women) who represent a diversity of experiences and backgrounds.  For each interview, we will offer a $100 honorarium (if this is a joint interview, each participant will receive $50).  We are especially interested in interviewing a former prisoner together with his or her family member or friend.

Interviews will take no longer than 45 minutes.

After the December 14th deadline, we will review all submissions and follow up with everyone who emailed us.  While we appreciate everyone’s interest, we will only be able to film five interviews, though we will try to reflect, to the best of our ability, everyone’s perspective on PNSPs in the final videos. 

Why now?
Under the current Canadian Government, it is highly unlikely that PNSPs will be implemented.  Yet, the urgency for PNSPs has never been more pressing.  With new legislation expected to add to overcrowding, violence and the number of people using drugs in prison, the public needs to be aware of the health risks associated with inadequate harm reduction measures in prison and how it affects them —  especially when prisoners ultimately re-enter their community. 

Sandra Ka Hon Chu
Senior Policy Analyst
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
+1 416 595-1666 ext. 232

Analyste principale des politiques
Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida
+1 416 595-1666 (poste 232)

Monday, November 28, 2011

AIDS ACTION NOW! POSTER/virus A fusion of HIV/Art/Activism

AIDS ACTION NOW! POSTER/virus   A fusion of HIV/Art/Activism

Launch on November 30th DAY WITH(OUT) ART @ the ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO 

Featuring performances by Kiki Ballroom Alliance and the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy
Speakers: Allyson Mitchell/Mikiki/Jessica Whitbread/Zoe Dodd/Collin Graham 
DJs: Nik Red/Leila P.

Featuring works by: Kent Monkman/Allyson Mitchell/Daryl Vocat/John Greyson/Cecilia Berkovic/Mikiki with Scott Donald

It is 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, and we are still struggling.  New forms of AIDS-phobia, discrimination and inequality continue to emerge including the increasing criminalization of people living with HIV. In Toronto, we are still facing proposed cuts to municipal funding for essential social services to address HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis. Federally in Canada, the climate of fear and austerity are increasing health inequalities for us all. It is clear that now more than ever, activism and art are needed to reinvigorate the response to HIV and AIDS.

This year, AIDS ACTION NOW is working to create a different kind of dialogue around HIV, in the art world, and on the street, in ways that hasn’t happened for a long time. Join us on November 30th for the Day With(out) Art: A fusion of HIV/Art/Activism at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 6-8:30pm.

In honor of the Day With(out) Art 2011, AIDS ACTION NOW has launched a poster series created by local Toronto artists Allyson Mitchell, Kent Monkman, John Greyson, Daryl Vocat, Cecilia Berkovic, and Mikiki with Scott Donald. The posters were developed collectively with community members working to respond to HIV. The posters aim to address important issues facing our lives as people living with HIV and/or who are co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C including sexual rights, harm reduction, criminalization of HIV exposure, and the need for political action to address the epidemics.

Through merging the worlds of art and activism we are intentionally evoking the history of creative responses to HIV.  Our aim is to provoke discussion, controversy and dialogue in a way traditional activism cannot. See the posters here (and watch as they are emerge around the city over the next 2 weeks): http://aan-poster-virus-2011.tumblr.com/


POSTER/virus blog: http://aan-poster-virus-2011.tumblr.com/

Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=123780651065997

Acknowledgments: We would like to thank the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), the Toronto Drug Users Union, the AIDS ACTION NOW Steering Committee, Doe O’Brien Teengs, Andrew Brett, Zoe Dodd, Len Tooley, Nicole Greenspan, Tim McCaskell, Brent Southin, Allyson Mitchell, Kent Monkman, John Greyson, Daryl Vocat, Cecilia Berkovic, Scott Donald, Mikiki, the AGO Youth Council, and the York University Faculty of Environmental Studies Community Arts Program.


Harm Reduction as an Anarchist Practice‏

presented by the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force

Friday December 2      Speakers Series Presentation

Harm Reduction as an Anarchist Practice: a user’s guide to capitalism
and addiction in North America    2 –4 pm. @ 410 Sherbourne Street,
3rd Floor Classroom

Presenter:  Christopher Smith

In spite of its origins as an illegal, clandestine, grassroots
activity that took place either outside or in defiant opposition to
state and legal authority, there is growing evidence to suggest that
harm reduction in North America has become sanitized and depoliticized
in its institutionalization as public health policy. Harm reduction
remains the most contested and controversial aspect of drug policy on
both sides of the Canada-US border, yet the institutionalization of
harm reduction in each national context demonstrates a series of stark
contrasts.  Arguing that the founding philosophy and spirit of the
harm reduction movement represents a fundamentally anarchist-inspired
form of practice, Christopher Smith considers tactics for reclaiming
and re-politicizing the future of harm reduction in North America.

Currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at U Pennsylvania, Christopher’s
current research examines consumer involvement in the addiction and
mental health sectors, underground harm reduction interventions in
Canada and the US, and global drug user capacity building initiatives.
His forthcoming book, “ Addiction, Modernity and the City: A users’
guide to urban space” will be published in 2012

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Solidarity with Insite!!!!

Join COUNTERfit and The Toronto Drug Users Union at South Riverdale Community Health Centre Friday September 30 at 9:30am as the Supreme Court of Canada’s hands down its written decision regarding Vancouver’s Insite. Insite is North America’s first legal supervised safe injection site.  The scientific evidence in support of Insite is undisputable and many, many people’s lives have been saved since it opened its doors in 2003.

Tomorrow we will gather in solidarity with supporters of Vancouver’s Insite and harm reduction activists around Canada and internationally who all agree that people who use drugs deserve the same rights to health and dignity as every other human being. We will either be celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to support Insite or strategizing ways to organize in resistance.

Location & Time:
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
955 Queen Street East, Toronto

See you tomorrow!