To our CSSDP community,

A representative of CSSDP’s National Board recently appeared in a short video for CAMH, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction research centre, on an education campaign for their Cannabis Knowledge Exchange Hub. While Canada has legalized cannabis, there are still specific harms that affect youth who use cannabis. Therefore, when we received the invitation to contribute our harm reduction messaging to CAMH’s cannabis education campaign, we viewed this as an opportunity to provide practitioners with immediate and tangible ways to better support youth who use cannabis, and also to add youth voices to the conversation about cannabis and mental health.

Let us be clear that the decision to appear in this video is not an endorsement of CAMH. Health care systems have a violent history, particularly within drug using, Mad, Black and Indigenous, and queer and trans communities. Specifically, CAMH has previously exhibited a number of practices that harm these communities. These include their history of medicalizing queerness, gate-keeping trans healthcare including HRT and gender affirming surgeries, as well as conducting trans conversion therapy, and failing to adequately support programs servicing Black youth. Additionally, CAMH continues to inflict trauma through carceral means such as the use of involuntarily holds for youth experiencing mental illness. We recognize that members of our larger CSSDP community have been directly harmed by CAMH and want to apologize to those individuals specifically, and acknowledge how seeing CSSDP featured in their videos was hurtful to them.

Change is needed, and CSSDP strives for changes to structures that harm youth who use drugs and other communities that are targeted through systems of oppression. We believe in affecting this change through a number of tactics, including collaborating strategically to make change from inside these structures, particularly among those directly providing services to youth. We acknowledge the reach of CAMH’s network, and sought to amplify the voices and perspectives of marginalized youth through their platform, yet strive to continue to hold them accountable.

It is imperative that youth are represented in the mental health and substance use landscape. As young people advocating for drug policies and practices that support youth in all aspects of our lives, it is our duty to represent the interests of youth who use substances in health care spaces – spaces where youth are often left out of the decision making process and ignored as stakeholders.

Having members of our network call out our work with CAMH these past few days has pushed us to be even more critical and question our collaborations. Ultimately, there is always room to do better and we hope our chapters and larger network know that we are always open to conversations and feedback about how to be accountable to our communities and effective in our activism. By no means do our appearances or collaborations with a given group constitute an endorsement, and we will ensure that this is much clearer in the future. 

In solidarity.