Vol 12 No 1 (2020)

Slipping Between The Cracks Of Canadian Health Care: Examining The Opiod Crisis In Canada Through The Framework Of Harm Reduction in Portugal

Anna Pillipow Pillipow
Athabasca University graduate student.
Published September 3, 2020




This article proposes that it is important that the opioid crisis be understood as an addiction crisis, rather than a crime-related crisis and that viewing it within the framework of health may produce better solutions than trying to effect change through strategies associated with wrongdoing requiring criminal justice as currently exist. It is recommended that Canadian legislation adopt the Portuguese model of public health/ harm reduction to address the opioid crisis in Canada and explores why this may not have happened in the Canadian context. The solutions proposed here that take inspiration from the Portuguese approach include the decriminalization of all drugs; increased access to medical care (detox facilities, treatment beds and transitional housing), as well as integrative work programs in the formal economy. Canada’s current legislation around illicit substance is rooted in racialized immigration ideology and exploitative labor dependencies from the early 20thcentury. It is time Canada ends its own “war on drugs”.

Keywords: Canada, war on drugs, opioid crisis, harm reduction policies, Portugal.