National anti-stigma campaign is needed

Leslie McBain, Pender Island, BC

From April 4 to 6, 2017, I was in Ottawa to attend the Drug Futures Forum, a conference around the topic of how drug policy might and should look in ten years’ time. Many of the attendees and many of the speakers are known to me as the Canadian network of people working for harm reduction measures is relatively small. But they are a powerful and educated bunch.

Because the scene around illicit drugs is so very dire right now, much focus was on the immediate situation. It seems that everyone knows that we need to pursue decriminalization, accessible prescription heroin, safe consumption sites, legalization and regulation of cannabis as well as eventually all other drugs.

Also, it is agreed that we need further research in all areas. The problem is convincing the legislators to change policies to reflect what we know to be true. This necessitates high level research, which in turn takes funding. I was able to meet privately with Health Minister Jane Philpott as well as ADM Hilary Geller and MP Elizabeth May. Each meeting had a similar outcome. These legislators and politicians are on board with harm reduction, but feel that the Canadian electorate is still immersed in the stigmatized and ill-informed thinking about addiction and people who are drug dependent.

Speaking on behalf of all of us, I suggested a national anti-stigma campaign, and on Lorna Thomas’s idea of creating a grief support system for families who have lost loved one. The Minister was interested in both. I will continue to be the polite but persistent squeaky wheel.

 MSTH founding member Leslie McBain meeting with Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Health

MSTH founding member Leslie McBain meeting with Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Health