Doctors for Decriminalization is a coalition of Canadian clinicians that recognizes the harms associated with the criminalization of substance use, which disproportionately impacts our society’s most marginalized populations, and advocates for responsible and evidence-informed drug and substance policy with the goal to improve the health of all Canadians.
Respect for dignity
Social justice: promoting health equity and preventing systemic discrimination
Human Rights based approach to policy development- especially valuing the right to health
Drug prohibition and the criminalization of substance use has failed to decrease the use and availability of drugs; and has worsened the harm associated with drug use.
Criminalization of drug and substance use has a disproportionate impact on communities that are racialized, economically disadvantaged, underserviced, and under-resourced.
Resources that are currently expended on the criminalization of substance use should be redistributed to policies and programming to promote health, equity, social stability, and safety.
The criminalization of substance use has failed to decrease the use and availability of drugs, yet has resulted in grave health, economic and social harms including:
Increased illicit drug potency and a contaminated drug supply resulting in increased morbidity and mortality (overdoses and other health consequences) associated with substance use (Iron Law of Prohibition)
Impeded access to health and social services, and emergency care for people who use drugs
Increased the risk of communicable disease transmission (HIV/HCV/COVID19)
Stigmatized substance users
Worsened mental health symptomatology through isolation/confinement and disrupted social attachments associated with incarceration
Increased high-risk substance use behaviour
Impaired social and economic health of people who use substances through decreasedaccess to employment/education and housing opportunity, child custody, freedom to travel associated with criminal records
Destabilized safety and security at community, national, transnational levels due to increased violence and empowerment of criminal organizations
Dr. Tim Holland (Co-Chair)
Tim Holland (He/Him*) works as a family physician at Sipekne'katik Health Centre and Newcomer Health Clinic in Nova Scotia. He is a co-founder of the Newcomer Health Clinic and is the current Medical Director. He is a co-founder of the Sipekne'katik community based opioid treatment program and continues to provide opioid replacement therapy and addiction treatment through his work with the Sipekne'katik First Nation. He also works in Emergency Medicine and Medical Assistance in Dying. He is the current Chair of the Committee on Ethics for the Canadian Medical Association. Tim lives and works in Mi’kma”ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw People.
Dr. Tiffany O'Donnell (Co-Chair)
Tiffany O’Donnell (She/Her*) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University. She is a family physician in Sipekne’katik First Nation where she is a co-founder and physician lead for the community based opioid treatment program. A certificant of the International Society of Addiction Medicine, she works as a consultant in Addiction Medicine for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. She sits on the board of the East Coast Prison Justice Society, the Advisory Committee to the Atlantic Mentorship Network for Pain and Addiction, and is the medical consultant to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia. She resides in Mi’kma”ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw people.
Dr. Monty Ghosh
Monty Ghosh (He/Him) is an Internist, Addiction Specialist, and Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta. He works with multiple community based not for profit organizations to provide support for marginalized populations and is heavily involved with provincial policy building in Alberta, clinical and health systems research, and implementation science provincially and nationally. Monty works in Calgary and Edmonton, Treaty 6 and 7 territory - the ancestral and traditional territory of the Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, as well as the Métis who's footsteps have marked our lands for centuries.
Dr. Sarah Elliott
Sarah Elliott (She/Her) is a family doctor focused on inner city health in Calgary. She completed a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Toronto, prior to pursuing a career in medicine. She completed her Family Medicine training at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto in 2018 and an Enhanced Skill Program in Addiction Medicine in Calgary in 2019. She currently practices addiction and family medicine serving inpatient, community health centre and shelter patient populations in Calgary. Sarah works in Calgary, Treaty 6 and 7 territory - the ancestral and traditional territory of the Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, as well as the Métis who's footsteps have marked our lands for centuries.
Dr. Tim Guimond
Tim Guimond (He/Him) is a a Clinician-Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and the Mental Health Director of HQ, a sexual health clinic for GBMSM. In addition to providing clinical services to patients with concurrent disorders, he also teaches medical students, residents and students of other health disciplines in Motivational Interviewing, community reinforcement approach and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. Tim’s educational background includes medical school at the Johns Hopkins University, and a psychiatric residency at the University of Toronto, where he also completed a Masters of Science in Statistics and a PhD in Biostatistics at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Tim works in Toronto, for thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.
Dr. Danielle Kaardal
Danielle Kaardal (She/Her) is a Resident Physician in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba with an interest in addictions medicine. She believes the lives of people who use drugs are inherently valuable and wants to end their criminalization. Danielle resides on Treaty One Territory, as well as in the heartland of the Métis people.
Dr. Quinten Clarke
Quinten Clarke (He/Him) is a Resident Physician in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. He has previously worked as an epidemiologist and data analyst for Health Canada, Perinatal Services BC, and the BC Centre for Disease Control. Quinten resides on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Nations.