7.4 Advocating for change

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition are advocating to revise Canada’s Drug Safety Act and focus on a public health and human rights approach[1]. This means sharing information to help Canadians understand how/when/where policies were created and change policy based on evidence. Watch this short film by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition[2] to help understand the impacts of the war on drugs and the community agencies that are working towards ending current substance use policies.

Food For Thought

  • Reflect on the concept of prohibition.  How could quality control be changed if substance/use policies were built on a public health approach?

There are other advocacy groups across Canada that are speaking up to say the current approach is not working:

Interactive map from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Activities

Read Moms Stop the Harm[3]

  1. What was the most significant learning for you?  Why?
  2. Do you think websites or programs like this are effective?  Why or why not?
  3. How could someone get involved in supporting policy changes?

Does this mean that Canadian lawmakers and policy makers have not made changes in the last thirty years to reflect a more evidence-based approach?  No, there have been significant changes to policies.

Review the following Timeline: How cannabis became legalized in Canada created by CBC Kids News for how marijuana became legalized in Canada.[4] for how marijuana became legalized in Canada.

Food For Thought

  • Do you see other changes in policy between the 1990’s and today?
  • What is the biggest change you see?
  • What areas do you think need further policies?  Who would be responsible?

As we have explored in this chapter changes are happening.  The current challenge, suggested by groups like the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, is a dichotomy between the funding and support to harm reduction programs and making the legal changes that could make piecemeal harm reduction programs obsolete. What role does a Social Service worker play in this arena?

Please note that as of May, 2022, the British Columbia Government will be implementing a new law that sees small amounts of certain substances decriminalized.  This is an exciting step and the rest of the country will be watching closely to see what the result may be.  Read below about the exemption from Health Canada: B.C. receives exemption to decriminalize possession of some illegal drugs for personal use[5]


  1. Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. (2021). Drug law reform. https://drugpolicy.ca/our-work/issues/reforme-des-politiques-sur-les-drogues/
  2. Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. (2020, Oct. 5). Getting to tomorrow: Ending the overdose crisis.  [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IEk1iYtJGw
  3. Moms Stop the Harm. (2021). Moms Stop the Harm website. https://www.momsstoptheharm.com/
  4. CBC Kids News. (2018, October18). Timeline: How cannabis became legalized in Canada.https://www.cbc.ca/kidsnews/post/timeline-how-marijuana-became-legalized-in-Canada
  5. Government of Canada. (2022). B.C. receieves exemption to decriminalize possession of some illegal drugs for personal use. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2022/05/bc-receives-exemption-to-decriminalize-possession-of-some-illegal-drugs-for-personal-use.html

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