12. Back to the Future for Canada’s National Anti-Drug Strategy: Homeless Youth and the Need for Harm Reduction

This chapter argues that drug policy in Canada is moving in the wrong direction with the exclusion of harm reduction from the 2007 National Anti-Drug Strategy. Harm reduction is an important public health initiative for promoting the safety and well-being of marginalized substance users, including those who are young and homeless. A small qualitative, interview study of homeless youth and service providers conducted in Ottawa, Ontario is discussed in this regard. Among the key findings are that substance use is common among homeless youth and that these young people often get caught in a harmful cycle in which substance use is both a coping mechanism for dealing with life on the street, as well as a stressor that contributes to, and sometimes worsens, their daily struggles. The federal government is called upon to support these youth by reinstating harm reduction as a pillar of the national drug strategy.

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Gaetz, Stephen
O’Grady, Bill
Buccieri, Kristy
Karabanow, Jeff
Marsolais, Allyson
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory On Homelessness