Grassroots Responses to Harm Reduction Barriers

In the fall of 2017, Overdose Prevention Ottawa (“OPO”) organized and operated a low-barrier overdose prevention site for 78 days without financial, infrastructural or administrative support from any level of government or local harm reduction-based health and social service organizations. OPO is a peer-centred collective that is comprised of community members and harm reduction service providers who came together to respond to the overdose emergency that has taken so many of our friends and loved ones from us. OPO’s operations have helped people who use drugs survive through the overdose emergency and responded to the lack of adequate action by the government and heath and social service organizations.

This workshop will provide space to engage in a thoughtful discussion on the barriers to life and dignity that people who use drugs have to navigate in their everyday lives in order to survive. It starts from an acknowledgement that prohibition and structural discrimination against people who use drugs are violent, harmful, and perpetuate death. In this workshop, we will unpack how legal, institutional, and structural veils limit access to harm reduction services. We will examine how current harm reduction services that keep white men as executives and managers, enhance structural barriers to harm reduction services. We will also map how grassroots responses that are informed by people who use drugs and mainly led by femmes, break down these barriers.

In this workshop, we discuss how…
#lawneedsfeminismbecause the law is misrepresented and used as a tool to deny people who use drugs basic services required for their life and dignity.

#Lawneedsfeminismbecause when health and social services are available for people who use drugs, these services are surrounded by barriers that limit their accessibility.

#Lawneedsfeminismbecause grassroots initiatives to address injustices faced by people who use drugs, are mainly led by femmes

#Lawneedsfeminismbecause harm reduction services continue to be institutionalized and dominated by white male executives and managers.

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Yafa Jarrar

Yafa is a J.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. She was born and raised in Palestine and is a first generation immigrant to Canada. Yafa has been involved in social justice and anti-racism movements in Canada since she immigrated in 2003. Yafa is a volunteer with Overdose Prevention Ottawa and she currently lives in Ottawa, Algonquin Territory.

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Lisa Wright

Lisa is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa, Department of Law and Legal Studies. She is an organizer with Overdose Prevention Ottawa and has been involved with grassroots, harm reduction advocacy in Ottawa since 2013.