Photo: Kashish Hura

Panelists call on Ryerson to adopt a harm reduction policy

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By Kashish Hura

The founder of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) chapter at Ryerson University called on the school to adopt a harm reduction policy during a panel discussion last week.

Alannah Fricker, a third-year social work student at Ryerson, spoke at the Bringing Harm Reduction Home to Ryerson panel held at Heaslip House on Nov. 23, alongside Lauren Goodman, a social worker and counsellor at the Centre for Student Development and Counselling at Ryerson.

Fricker told a crowd of about 30 community members that Ryerson’s current non academic code of conduct doesn’t have a “Good Samaritan policy.”

“On paper it looks like you could be, for example, suspended or expelled from school for having used substances,” she said. “But we need to take a very clear stance that we will protect students in this area and treat it as a human rights issue.”

Fricker started a CSSDP chapter at Ryerson to lobby for such issues. The group aims to raise awareness and improve safety on campus by promoting harm reduction, connecting students to resources, reducing stigma and educating community members about drug policy reform.

Goodman agreed with Fricker that Ryerson needs to adopt a harm reduction policy. Algonquin College in Ottawa has a harm reduction framework called the “Umbrella Project,” she said.

The initiative is meant to, “Signify that harm reduction is an overarching set of policies and programs and practices that relate to the safer ways of drug use,” Goodman added.

The Umbrella Project runs health promotion campaigns, naloxone training sessions and connects students with support groups.

Pascal Murphy, an instructor at Ryerson who teaches an elective called “Homelessness in Canadian Society,” spoke at the event during the Q&A period.

In his course, Murphy includes one lesson on harm reduction; students are trained in using naloxone kits by members of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

Murphy said harm reduction must be integrated into our lives in small ways, which can, in turn, make big impacts.

“Harm reduction can be integrated into our lives in so many capacities,” Murphy said.

Even the rounded corners of a desk demonstrate harm reduction technology by making it less likely that you’ll be injured from a sharp corner, he added.

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