Toronto does #supportdontpunish

Toronto does #supportdontpunish

Kelly Rose Pflug-Back

Last Friday, June 26, over fifty Torontonians gathered for the city’s first Support. Don’t Punish. Global Day of Action. Over the past three years, the number of cities participating has nearly quadrupled, spreading from 41 cities in 2013, to 100 in 2014, and to 156 in 2015. Toronto was not the only Canadian city to take part this year, as Montreal and Ottawa also held actions to commemorate the day.

The audience listens to Donna May from Jac's Voice as she shares her journey to drug policy reform.

The audience listens to Donna May from Jac’s Voice as she shares her journey to drug policy reform.

Toronto’s action was located in the courtyard of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre at the Drug Users’ Memorial – a statue which bears the names of East Toronto residents who have died as a result of prohibitionist drug policies. Attendees gathered in the courtyard to listen to speakers, socialize, and enjoy a delicious vegan feast prepared by Toronto’s Food Not Bombs chapter. Representatives from the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, and Jac’s Voice delivered speeches covering a diverse array of topics relating to the harms of current drug policies. The range of speakers highlighted both personal and political perspectives on drugs, criminalization, health, human rights, and other social and economic issues which impact people who use drugs, their families and loved ones, and society in general. The long, hard, and often uphill battle against the criminalization and stigmatization of drugs is fought not only through political lobbying and public education, but also through our day to day choices to exercise love and compassion towards ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities, in a world which too often dehumanizes those who use illicit substances or otherwise do not fit into the status quo.

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Torontonians march down Queen Street for Support. Don’t Punish.

After the speeches, speakers and audience members assembled into a march and made way along Queen Street, carrying signs with slogans including “Health not Handcuffs” and “Harm Reduction Saves Lives.” The group chanted, handed out flyers about Support. Don’t Punish., and briefly chatted with interested passersbys.

People in attendance belonged to many different age groups, backgrounds, and levels of experience in activism and advocacy work. Some attendees were drug users, while others were family members or friends of people who use. A delegation of young people from the Native Youth Resource Centre attended, and youth in general were highly represented at the action. The event served as a way for advocates to forge new connections with other organizations and individuals. The action illustrated the power of how common goals can bring people together, and the importance of solidarity in the struggle for just and equitable drug policy.

While the Support. Don’t Punish. campaign is global in it’s scope, Toronto’s day of action provided a space to discuss and strategize on issues specifically relevant to Canada, Ontario, and Toronto, including high rates of opioid overdoses, naloxone access, and the recently passed Bill C-2, which creates numerous obstacles to opening and operating life-saving supervised consumption sites. Future Support. Don’t Punish. actions in Toronto could be a key component of mobilizing the region around drug policy issues and educating the general public about the harms caused by prohibitionist drug policies. We hope that next year’s day of action will be an even larger gathering, and that the number of Canadian cities participating will continue to expand.

#supportdontpunish

#supportdontpunish

On June 26, citizens in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa will join thousands of activists in more than 150 cities around the world to protest harmful drug laws that fuel public health crises and human rights violations.

The Support Don’t Punish: Global Day of Action coincides with the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day used by many governments to justify violent crackdowns on drug offenders, including public beatings and executions in some countries.

Canada is currently at a pivotal moment with respect to drug policy. At present, we’re poised to continue our blind support of the failed “war on drugs.” But with a federal election looming, Canadians are coming together to demand that elected representatives create a healthier, more dignified future for people who use drugs.

Read the full press release about Support Don’t Punish in Canada

supportdontpunish Are you in Toronto, Montreal, or Ottawa? Be sure to attend the Support Don’t Punish action in your city!

Click for information about the Toronto action.
Click for information about the Montreal action.
Click for information about the Ottawa action (note this action takes place on June 25).

Even if you can’t attend an action in person, you can still show your solidarity on social media. Last year #supportdontpunish was trending on Twitter, so it is up to us to make that happen again! You can also tweet at the campaign using @SDPcampaign. Make sure to like and share the official Support Don’t Punish Facebook page, and invite your friends to as well. Most importantly, subscribe to the Thunderclap for all social media platforms!

 

Bill 45: Barring Healthier Choices

Bill 45: Barring Healthier Choices

Dessy Pavlova

On May 26 2015, the Ontario government passed the Making Healthier Choices Act. Hiding behind the facade of helping families make healthier food choices, the bill focuses on banning electronic cigarettes, which includes vaporizers as well as flavoured tobacco products. While the bill focuses primarily on regulating e-cigarettes, the inclusion of vaporizers means that medical cannabis users could be affected by the legislation. Medical marijuana can still legally be smoked in Ontario, but not apparently not vaporized indoors or in city parks. This limits fair access for patients – even a vaporizer approved by Health Canada for medical use is included in the ban. Many patients have won the rights to vaporize in hospitals and educational institutions, so why is this new bill coming in not accommodating their right to vape?!

This also means that Toronto’s beloved vapor lounges may be under threat, as users will be prohibited from using e-cigarettes or vaporizers in any “enclosed public space” or on city property including parks. An implementation date regarding vapor establishments has yet to be set, which could allow for an appeal. Additionally, starting on October 1st, 2015, establishments will no longer be able to offer access to shisha tobacco products, and will prohibit the use of hookah or water pipes. As of January 1st, 2016, selling any flavoured tobacco products will be banned, and before the deadline of January 1st, 2018, so will menthol cigarettes.

Manitoba is implementing similar laws prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and ban use in most indoor and public places, but vaping isn’t put in the same category. The Manitoba law is more balanced, allowing for the smoking of e-cigarettes where they are sold, and allowing for bars to apply for licenses to have them. The Ontario government needs to consider how this bill will affect medical cannabis patients right to vaporize, including accessing vapor lounges and the sale of medical vaporizer equipment.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the potential impacts:

“Re-Normalizing” Indoor Smoking

With the new laws prohibiting tobacco and vapor stores from allowing a customer to view or handle a vaporizer prior to purchase, and barring merchants from speaking to the customer about the vaporizer in any way, there is no way for consumers to attain or apply fact-based knowledge. Bill 45 also outright limits the use of vaporizers in “enclosed public spaces” which could threaten the existence of vapor lounges altogether, alongside shisha bars and any other establishment licensed in Ontario.

Supposedly, one of the main concerns is that electronic cigarettes will “re-normalize” smoking indoors, under the argument that electronic cigarettes and vaporizers release a vapor that “looks like smoke.” Yet, the limitations on e-cigarettes and vaporizers may actually increase traditional smoking, with no available information on safer alternatives. The Electronic Cigarette Trade Association (ECTA) has been reviewing the collective information available, working with Public Health professionals and researchers, many of whom stand against Bill 45, maintaining that it limits health and support for less hazardous choices. Instead of offering credible fact-based research on the harms of electronic cigarettes, the government is simply barring access to knowledge about a potentially safer choice. With Bill 45 comes the prohibition of vaporizing indoors, which further ostracizes an already marginalized group that uses medical marijuana.

Creating a New Drug Trade

Like other prohibitionist legislation, Bill 45 will not dissuade people from using e-cigarettes or vaporizers, but will only serve to drive sale of these products underground. Bill 45 will not deter youth from seeking out illegal substances, but will ensure that access is unregulated, and potentially unsafe. By banning the sale of vape pens, the government of Ontario is inadvertently creating a black market. With illegal products, there is no age limit, no access to evidence-based information, and no assurance of the quality or purity of the product. Further, it limits the potential for reducing the harm of smoking, especially for medical marijuana patients.

Limiting Access Equals Healthier Choices?

Law professor David Sweanor, who has worked in health policy on tobacco and nicotine for 30 years, says that Bill 45 will ironically actually limit people’s ability to make healthier choices. Bill 45 prevents potential customers from viewing and holding an electronic cigarette prior to purchasing it. Yet removing this access will only prevent smokers from making an informed decision about whether to use electronic cigarettes, as people may be reluctant to spend money on a new device they haven’t had the chance to see. This measure is counterintuitive, as it will reduce the likelihood that smokers will switch to this safer method of ingestion. Unlike Manitoba’s proposed laws, there is no vaping allowed in any private clubs, paid venues or rented spaces allowed in Ontario – not even in vape shops. For medical marijuana users in Ontario, rolling up and taking a puff might just be a simpler solution than navigating the complexities of this new law.

Professor Sweanor compares e-cigarettes to safe injection sites for injection drug users — in both cases, it’s the delivery of the drug, not the drug itself, that is responsible for the biggest public health problem. Recognizing this requires that we increase, not limit, accessibility to safer methods of ingestion, and this is one place where the Making Healthier Choices Act falls short.

For patients that use medical marijuana in vapor lounges, or youth that seek flavoured tobacco, e-cigarettes, or hookahs, Bill 45 will not only limit access to credible information, but will have to resort to an underground, potentially unsafe and completely unregulated market for these now illicit products and places to indulge. With the limiting of access of safer alternatives, and the prohibition of safe places for users to vaporize, Bill 45 is likely to limit harm reduction instead of promote it.

Support. Don’t Punish

Support. Don’t Punish

10 Ways to Make a Difference

Kelly Rose Pflug-Back

Voir plus bas pour la version française

June 26th is the National Day of Action for Support. Don’t Punish (SDP)!   SDP is a global campaign to end the abuse, stigmatization, torture, imprisonment, and killing of people who use criminalized substances in the name of the ‘war on drugs’. This is an opportunity to help educate our communities about the harms of current drug policy, and lobby our politicians and policy makers to end these human rights abuses. Check out these 10 steps to find out how you can get involved in your community and make your voice heard!
1. Get educated! You can start by familiarizing yourself with the history and goals of Support. Don’t Punish. on their website. Download their free organizing handbook and start thinking about how you can get your community interested in the day of action.
2. Rock the logo. Whether you’re wearing it on a t-shirt, adding the banner to your personal blog, or promoting it on Facebook and other social media, making the SDP logo visible will get people interested and help build the campaign. The more visibility SDP has, the more people can see the importance of the campaign and the broad range of support that it has.
3. Connect with organizations in your area which are working on harm reduction and drug policy issues. From cannabis clubs to HIV/AIDS organizations to prisoner justice groups, there is a diverse range of causes that overlap with the SDP campaign. Do some internet research and ask around about which groups and individuals are doing this work in your area, and reach out to them about being involved.
4. Write a letter to a politician or policy official, and tell others to do the same. Contacting politicians doesn’t need to be intimidating- check out the info provided by Democracy Watch to make sure you have your bases covered. Is there an MP or city councillor in your area who has supported harm reduction or spoken out against harsh drug sentencing? Think about who might be sympathetic to your cause, and let them know how important it is that they use their power to stand up for the health, well being, and human rights of people who use drugs. Alternately, you can write to people who have been against harm reduction and in favour of harsh punishments, and respectfully explain why our society needs policies that are helping rather than hurting. Letter campaigns work best with as many people as possible behind them- you can make it easier for others to participate by creating a letter template they can fill in, and share it online or hand it out amongst your co-workers, classmates, friends, and family.
5. Set up an interview with a local TV station, publication, or your student newspaper. Talking to the press can be intimidating if you haven’t done it before, but we can help you prepare and make sure you represent SDP’s core principles and values. Are there reporters in your area who have given positive coverage to harm reduction issues? Do you know of any bloggers who cover drug policy? Reaching out to the media can help build more momentum for the national day of action.
6. Set up a public event in your community. Get a group together and plan something fun, attention-grabbing, and easy for other folks to access if they want to get involved. Your action doesn’t have to be huge or conform to a specific model- it could be anything from a community bike ride to an open mic night or concert to a rally at your parliament building. All you need to bring to the table is a passion for organizing, and Kelly at CSSDP Toronto can help you with the rest!
7. Be part of the interactive photo project. Just download the campaign poster online, take a high-res photo of yourself or your group, and send it to campaign@idpc.net so they can add it to the website, Facebook page and Flickr. Adding your face to the campaign helps showcase just how big and diverse the global network of support for SDP is.
8. Circulate a petition. With the growing popularity of online petitions, it’s easier than ever to create, circulate, and submit a petition. Change.org and Petitiononlinecanada.com are just two of the platforms you can use. Think of an issue that’s specific and local- you could push your government to dedicate more funds to harm reduction programming, help save a marijuana dispensary or safe injection site that’s under threat of being closed, or demand that your city take action regarding police misconduct.
9. Be part of the social media campaign. Log on to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else you use, and help get the #supportdontpunish hashtag trending. ‘Like’ and share the SDP campaign on Facebook, and help to build our online presence.
10. Start thinking about next year! Which parts of your action went well, and which could be improved upon? What steps can you take to make it bigger, better, and more impactful next time around? Keep a log of your group’s thoughts and reflections, so that you won’t forget. In the meantime, think of other local events where you could promote SDP’s vision- whether it’s a city council meeting where you could raise drug-related issues or a campaign to open a safe injection site in your area, you and your group can find opportunities to keep networking, organizing, and spreading the word!

Soutenez. Ne punissez pas.

10 façons d’aider à changer les choses

Le 26 juin est la Journée nationale d’action pour Soutenez. Ne punissez pas (SNPP)! SNPP est une campagne mondiale pour mettre fin à la maltraitance, à la stigmatisation, à la torture, à l’emprisonnement et à la mise à mort, au nom de la « guerre aux drogues », de personnes qui consomment des drogues illégales. C’est une occasion de contribuer à l’éducation de nos communautés au sujet des préjudices des lois actuelles sur les drogues, et de faire pression sur nos politiciens et sur les responsables des politiques afin que cessent ces violations des droits humains. Prenez connaissance de ces 10 éléments, pour savoir comment vous pouvez vous impliquer dans votre communauté et faire entendre votre voix!

1. Éduquez-vous! Vous pouvez commencer par vous familiariser avec l’historique et les buts de Soutenez. Ne punissez pas, qui sont décrits sur le site Web de la campagne. Téléchargez gratuitement le manuel d’organisation et commencez à réfléchir aux moyens par lesquels vous pouvez susciter l’intérêt de votre communauté pour la journée d’action.

2. Arborez le logo. Portez-le sur un t-shirt, ajoutez la bannière à votre propre logo ou publicisez-le dans Facebook et d’autres médias sociaux – la visibilité du logo de SNPP intéressera les gens et contribuera à renforcer la campagne. Plus on le verra et plus de gens pourront constater l’importance de la campagne et l’ampleur du soutien à son égard.

3. Communiquez avec des organismes de votre région qui travaillent sur les enjeux de la réduction des méfaits et des politiques sur les drogues. Des clubs de cannabis aux organismes de lutte contre le VIH/sida, en passant pour les groupes de défense des droits des détenus, il y a un large éventail de causes qui ont des choses en commun avec la campagne SNPP. Faites des recherches sur Internet et informez-vous des organismes et individus qui font ce travail dans votre région, puis tendez-leur la main afin qu’ils participent.

4. Écrivez une lettre à un politicien ou à un responsable des politiques, et invitez d’autres personnes à faire de même. Communiquer avec des politiciens n’est pas nécessairement intimidant – examinez l’information offerte par Démocratie en surveillance, pour couvrir vos arrières. Un député de votre région ou un conseiller municipal appuie-t-il la réduction des méfaits ou a-t-il déjà dénoncé les peines sévères pour des délits liés à la drogue? Demandez-vous qui pourrait être sympathique à votre cause, et expliquez-leur à quel point il est important qu’ils mettent à profit leur pouvoir, pour défendre la santé, le bien-être et les droits humains des personnes qui consomment des drogues. Vous pourriez aussi écrire à des personnes qui se positionnent contre la réduction des méfaits et en faveur de peines sévères, pour leur expliquer pourquoi notre société a besoin de politiques habilitantes plutôt que préjudiciables. Les campagnes de lettres sont plus efficaces lorsqu’elles ont un grand nombre de participants; vous pouvez aider les gens à participer en préparant un modèle de lettre qu’ils peuvent remplir et en le partageant sur Internet ou en le distribuant parmi vos collègues, co-étudiants, amis et familles.

5. Organisez une interview avec une télévision locale, un journal régional ou votre journal étudiant. S’adresser aux médias peut être intimidant, si on ne l’a jamais fait; mais nous pouvons vous aider à vous préparer et à vous assurer de représenter les principes et valeurs fondamentales de SNPP. Certains journalistes de votre région font-ils une couverture positive des enjeux de la réduction des méfaits? Connaissez-vous des blogueurs qui traitent des politiques sur les drogues? Joindre les médias peut aider à donner encore plus d’élan à la Journée nationale d’action.

6. Organisez un événement public dans votre communauté. Réunissez des gens et planifiez quelque chose d’amusant, qui capte l’attention et qui est facile d’accès à d’autres gens qui pourraient vouloir participer. Votre action n’a pas à être gigantesque, ni conforme à un modèle particulier – ce peut être bien des choses : une randonnée à vélo dans la communauté, une soirée à microphone ouvert, un concert, ou un rassemblement devant votre législature. Tout ce qu’il faut réunir, c’est la passion de l’organisation – et Kelly, de la campagne SNPP à Toronto, peut vous aider avec le reste!

7. Participez au projet interactif de photos. Il suffit de télécharger du site Internet l’affiche de la campagne, de prendre une photo en haute résolution de vous ou de votre groupe et de l’envoyer à l’adresse courriel campaign@idpc.net pour qu’elle puisse être ajoutée au site Internet, à la page Facebook et à l’album dans Flickr. L’ajout de votre visage à la campagne contribue à démontrer à quel point le réseau mondial d’appui à SNPP est vaste et diversifié.

8. Démarrez une pétition. Avec la popularité croissante des pétitions Internet, il est plus facile que jamais de créer une pétition, de la faire circuler et de la présenter. Vous pourriez utiliser par exemple les plateformes Change.org ou Petitiononlinecanada.com, pour le faire. Réfléchissez à un enjeu qui est spécifique et local – vous pourriez faire pression sur votre gouvernement pour qu’il augmente le financement des programmes de réduction des méfaits, pour qu’il aide à sauvegarder un dispensaire de marijuana médicale ou un centre d’injection supervisée qui est menacé de fermeture, ou demander que votre conseil municipal passe aux actes devant des écarts de conduite de la police.

9. Participez à la campagne dans les médias sociaux. Connectez-vous à Twitter, Facebook, Instagram ou un autre média social que vous utilisez, et aidez à faire en sorte que le mot-clic #souteneznepunissezpas se retrouve dans les tendances sur Twitter. « Aimez » et partagez la campagne SNPP dans Facebook et aidez à accroître notre présence en ligne.

10. Commencez à penser à l’an prochain! Quelles parties de votre action ont bien fonctionné et lesquelles pourraient être améliorées? Quelles mesures pourriez-vous adopter pour son expansion, son amélioration et un impact accru, la prochaine fois? Écrivez dans un cahier de bord les pensées et réflexions de votre groupe, pour ne pas les oublier. Entretemps, pensez à d’autres événements locaux où vous pourriez promouvoir la vision de SNPP – que ce soit une réunion du conseil municipal lors de laquelle vous pourriez souligner des enjeux liés aux drogues, ou une campagne pour la création d’un centre d’injection supervisée dans votre région, vous et votre groupe pouvez trouver des occasions de poursuivre le réseautage et l’organisation, et de faire circuler le message!