Published: February 1, 2023
This February, we recognize and celebrate the role that Black people in Canada have played in advancing equity and promoting wellness in their communities, while acknowledging that racism has shaped and continues to be the cause of important and avoidable disparities in substance use health and care.
While the definition of a “public health approach to substance use” is constantly evolving, we understand this approach as one that must center racial equity, anti-oppression and cultural safety. In recognition of Black History Month, we have curated a selection of resources which explore the history of drug policy, and the concepts of race, racism, racialization and structural racism as the root causes of health and social inequities.
1) History of Drug Policy in Canada
Source: Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC)
The following is a brief history of Canadian drug policy summarized from Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada. The original book is written by Dr. Susan Boyd, a member of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, and is summarized here with permission. For the full, detailed, and illustrated account of how punitive drug laws based on prohibition took root in Canada and shaped society’s views on drug use, we encourage you to purchase Busted.
2) Let’s talk Racism and Health equity
Source: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health
This document is designed to encourage public health to act on racism as a key structural determinant of health inequities. It discusses racism as a critical factor that impacts health and wellbeing. It describes the concepts of race, racism and racialization and emphasizes settler colonialism and structural racism as the root causes of health and social inequities experienced by Indigenous and racialized peoples in Canada.
The resource includes discussion questions designed to help public health staff examine their work and consider how they can orient practice towards critical, decolonizing and anti-racist approaches. In addition, the questions ask practitioners to consider how beliefs and stereotypes may influence their practice.
3) Webinar series on anti-Black racism and public health
Source: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) & Black Health Education Collective
Anti-Black racism is a specific form of racism, rooted in the colonial history and practice of enslavement, that continues to impact the lives of Black people, regardless of whether they have a specific lineage to the enslaved in Canada, or if they are recent comers to Canada. Policies and practices rooted in Canadian institutions such as, health care, education, and justice mirror and reinforce beliefs, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination towards people of African descent and lead to a lack of equitable access, opportunities and outcomes for Black people.
Recognizing the need for specialized public health education and action in this area, the NCCDH is partnering with the Black Health Education Collaborative, a community of scholars and practitioners committed to improving Black health through education and research. This partnership will offer the Canadian public health community an important capacity building opportunity in the form of a three-part interactive webinar series. In this series, participants will explore how anti-Black racism impacts health and identify concrete opportunities for public health action.
- Part 1: #BlackLivesMatter in public health: Critical race theory, historical roots and legacies of anti-Black racism.
- Part 2: Anti-Black racism: A look at the social and physiological health impacts of injustice.
- Part 3: Uprooting anti-Black racism: Strategies and approaches for public health.
4) Theory in Action: Public Health and Community Power Building for Health Equity
Source: Journal of Public Health Management and Practice
This article addresses the need for public health professionals to better understand power and identifies opportunities for shifting power to achieve more equitable outcomes. First, it defines power and community power building. Next, it reviews a pragmatic theoretical framework that organizes power into 3 faces: (1) exercising influence in formal decision-making processes; (2) organizing the decision-making environment; and (3) shaping worldviews about social issues. Finally, it connects each face of power to community power-building practices using concrete examples.
5) "They're causing more harm than good": a qualitative study exploring racism in harm reduction through the experiences of racialized people who use drugs
Source: Harm Reduction Journal
Increased opioid-related morbidity and mortality in racialized communities has highlighted the intersectional nature of the drug policy crisis. Given the racist evolution of the war on drugs and the harm reduction (HR) movement, the aim of this study is to explore racism within harm reduction services through the perspectives of our participants.
6) Rights Back at You - Podcast
Source: Amnesty International
This podcast boldly imagines a better future for everyone. Want to hear compelling stories from people who fight back? Learn more about the systems that define our world? Or meet people who believe a better world is possible? Rights Back at You features stories from frontline activists that cut right to the heart of human rights—being human. Join our host Daniella Barreto for these compelling stories and learn how you can take action.
This is not an exhaustive list of resources or information relevant to racism, anti-oppression, cultural safety or health equity. Please consult Find a Resource or Browse by Topic for more information.