Drug use and dependency are key public health issues receiving large amounts of attention internationally at the moment, particularly around opioid use. While traditional government policies towards drugs have focused on punitive efforts and criminalization of users, the harm reduction paradigm instead focuses on treating drug use as a public health issue requiring treatment, not incarceration.

Across the country, public health emergencies have been called in response to high mortality rates and homelessness within drug-using populations. This is highlighted by as high as 9 opioid-related deaths per night in the city of Vancouver at one point in time. Where criminalization models of drug addiction have done little to minimize the flow of drugs into the streets or to protect the lives of users, harm reduction strategies have proven to save and improve quality of life, reduce costs and alleviate burdens on the healthcare industry and criminal justice system, and ultimately enroll more people into health-based intervention programs.

While the country prepares for the legalization of one illicit drug, in cannabis, the Federation will strive to continue the conversation around the importance of treatment over punishment. Multiple political parties within the country have already begun debating the merits of such a model, making now a pivotal time to amplify this discussion.