A RENEWED CALL FOR DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION ON INTERNATIONAL OVERDOSE AWARENESS DAY (IOAD) 2022
For immediate release
August 31st, 2022 — Toronto — On International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), the HIV Legal Network remembers the lives of our friends, family, and community members who have been taken too soon due to the drug poisoning crisis. We acknowledge the grief felt by those honouring their loved ones who have died or have been permanently injured because of an increasingly toxic drug supply.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has seen a marked rise in drug poisoning deaths with a 96% increase between 2020 and 2021, and deaths continue to remain high. Now, more than ever, the need for urgent drug policy change and greater public awareness is clear.
The HIV Legal Network is asking all levels of government to put health and human rights first by implementing progressive and comprehensive drug laws and policies, ending the criminalization and stigmatization of drug use, and expanding and scaling up harm reduction programs and measures, such as needle and syringe programs, safe injection and safe inhalation sites, and safe supply programs, including in prison.
As “Decriminalization Done Right: A Rights-Based Path for Drug Policy” — a civil society platform on drug decriminalization — states, “Punitive drug laws and policies purported to deter drug use have failed — and worse, they have done catastrophic harm. They have fueled deadly stigma; epidemics of preventable illness and death; poverty; homelessness; and widespread, systematic, and egregious violations of human rights.”
As a contributor to the platform, we are asking for the full decriminalization of all drug possession for personal use, as well as the sharing or selling of drugs for subsistence, to support personal drug use costs, or to provide a safe supply.
Evidence clearly shows that a bold policy shift away from criminalization is desperately needed as people continue to die from the toxic drug supply at unprecedented rates. Drug prohibition also harms Indigenous, Black, and other racialized, marginalized, and low-income communities, who are profiled and disproportionately arrested and incarcerated for drug offences, as well as facing higher instances of child apprehension orders. Criminalization must end as a tool to combat these further inequities. It’s time to act.
— 30 —
Sandra Ka Hon Chu, Co-Executive Director
HIV Legal Network
ABOUT THE HIV LEGAL NETWORK
The HIV Legal Network promotes the human rights of people living with HIV or AIDS and other populations disproportionately affected by HIV, punitive laws and policies, and criminalization, in Canada and internationally. We do this through research and analysis, litigation and other advocacy, public education, and community mobilization.