Open Letter to Justin Trudeau: Prioritizing Drug Policy for Incoming Cabinet Members

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada

Langevin Block
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

October 19, 2021

Dear Prime Minister:

RE: Prioritizing Drug Policy for Incoming Cabinet Members

As you well know, almost 23,000 people have died from an opioid overdose between January 2016 and March 2021, fueled by a contaminated drug supply and the stigma associated with drug use that is reinforced by the criminalization of drugs and of people who use them. Each day that goes by under a regime of criminal prohibition is a day in which government policy contributes to the often-deadly stigma surrounding drug use. The time to decriminalize drugs is long overdue.

Public support for drug decriminalization is growing. Earlier this year, a nationwide poll found close to 60 per cent of respondents and a majority in every province favoured removing criminal penalties for personal drug possession. Last year, almost 200 organizations Canada-wide supported a call to key ministers in the federal government to immediately decriminalize simple drug possession.

In the weeks preceding the recent election, the Liberal Party of Canada stated that a “re-elected Liberal government will continue to take an evidence-based approach to problematic substance use so that Canadians have access to the care and support they need.” As the leader of a newly elected federal government, you have a chance to make a difference.

We urge you to prioritize evidence-based drug policy in your new mandate, and to include drug policy reform in the mandates of your new Cabinet, including the mandates of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Public Safety, and given the disproportionate impact of punitive drug policy on Indigenous Peoples, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada. At minimum, their mandate letters should include a commitment to:

• Immediately decriminalize drug possession across Canada and eliminate all criminal sanctions and penalties related to drug use, in consultation with people who use drugs; and

• Clear support for and resources to facilitate nationwide, low-barrier access to safe supply.

There is no time to waste, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate the ongoing public health crises of drug toxicity injuries and deaths, on top of the still unresolved HIV and HCV pandemics, among other harms.

Yours sincerely,

Association des intervenants en dépendance du Québec (AIDQ)

Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs/ Association canadienne des personnes qui utilisent des drogues

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition/ Coalition Canadienne des politiques sur les drogues

HIV Legal Network/ Réseau juridique VIH


List of Signatories (UPDATED OCTOBER 27, 2021):

Action Hepatitis Canada/ Action hépatites Canada


AIDS Committee of Durham Region/ Le Comité du SIDA de la région de Durham

AIDS New Brunswick/ SIDA Nouveau-Brunswick

AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador


Association québécoise des centres d’intervention en dépendance (L’AQCID)

Association québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de
drogues (AQPSUD)

AVI Health and Community Services/ AVI Services de santé et communautaires

BC Civil Liberties Association/ Association des libertés civiles de la Colombie-Britannique

Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network)

CACTUS Montréal

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies/ Association canadienne des sociétés Elizabeth Fry

Canadian Association of Social Workers/ Association canadienne des travailleuses et travailleurs sociaux

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy/ É pour les politiques éclairées sur les substances psychoactives


Centre associatif polyvalent d’aide hépatite C (CAPAHC)

Centre d’intervention le Rond-Point

Centre des R.O.S.É l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Centre le S.P.O.T.

Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation

Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)

Confronting the Stigma of Drug Addiction

Criminalization and Punishment Education Project/ Projet de sensibilisation sur la criminalisation et la sanction

The Dispensary Community Health Centre/ Le DISPENSAIRE – Centre de santé communautaire

Doctors of the World Canada/ Médecins du Monde Canada


Drug User Liberation Front

EACH+EVERY: Businesses for Harm Reduction/ EACH+EVERY: Entreprises pour la réduction des méfaits

East Kootenary Network & Society of People Who Use Drugs


Groupe d’entraide à l’intention des personnes séropositives et itinerants (GEIPSI)

Groupe de recherche et d’intervention psychosociale (GRIP)

Groupe Harmonie

Hamilton Community Legal Clinic/ Clinique juridique communautaire de Hamilton

HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)

Institut universitaire sur les dépendances (IUD)

IRIS Estrie

John Howard Society of Simcoe & Muskoka/ Société John Howard de Simcoe et Muskoka

Ligue des droits et libertés

Logis Phare

Méta d’Âme

Moms Stop the Harm (MSTH)

Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Canada

National Association of Women and the Law/ Association nationale Femmes et Droit

Northreach Society

Ottawa Inner City Health

PAN – Pacific AIDS Network

Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre


PHS Community Services Society

Pozitive Pathways Community Services

Prisoners’ Legal Services

Réseau SOLIDARITÉ itinérance du Québec

(RÉ)SO 16-35

RÉZO, santé et mieux-être des hommes gais et bisexuels, cis et trans

Ryan’s Hope/ L’espoir de Ryan

Sandy Hill Community Health Centre/ Centre de santé communautaire Côte-de-Sable

School of Social Work, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) / École de travail social, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM)

Shining Waters Regional Council

Somerset West Community Health Centre/ Centre de santé communautaire Somerset Ouest

South Riverdale Community Health Centre

Table des organismes communautaires montréalais de lutte contre le sida (TOMS)

Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project

Walgwan Center/Centre Walgwan