There was the death of a harm reductionworker. T​he man was Raffi Balian who died, recently. T​here was the Drug Users’ Memorial on Friday February 16th at the South Riverdale Community Health Center or SRCHC.

Many spoke about the impact of this harm reduction worker and lifelong advocate for those who are users and even misusers of drugs. Balian was one of the founders and the coordinator of the SRCHC award-winning COUNTERfit harm reduction program.

Recently, it had expanded to include a safe-injection service called KeepSIX. Unfortunately, at the age of 60, Balian died on attending a national about supervised consumption. The day of death was February 16th.

There were about 50 people who mourned the death in the Leslieville centre. There were songs, prayers, a smudge ceremony, as well as the reminiscences of the good times. Carol Lee who is the person who runs the SRCHC Drug Users’ Memorial Project talked about the “ruthless war on drugs.”

Lee read a few lines that Balian wrote in May of 2012 as well. A well-known harm reduction worker in Toronto who co-founded the Moss Park overdose prevention site name is Zoe Dodd talked about the untimely death of Balian as well as the loss of others that she knew and cared for.

Often, there is a focus on the people who misuse drugs, overdose, and even die without appropriate trained care and naloxone present. However, there are the long-term advocates and workers.

Here we are dealing with the death of a highly valued member on the other side, someone who impacted the lives of the users that worked to improve their own livelihood, even hoping to save some lives.

Unfortunately, those who are helping those who misuse substance can die in the midst of their own advocacy at work as well. “Today we are remembering people who have been lost to us. … people who have been prematurely robbed of their lives,” said Lynne Raskin, SRCHC’s executive director. 


Lavoie, J. (2014, February 21). Harm reduction worker remembered at Leslieville memorial. Retrieved from

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:

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