Sounding the Alarm in New Brunswick

The first ever harm reduction symposium in New Brunswick was held March 23rd and 24th in Saint John. The event was launched on a Friday evening, where more than 200 provincial and municipal leaders, policymakers, administrators,  other stakeholders, and members of the general public heard from the provincial Minister of Health and Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, as well as national and international harm reduction experts, Dr. Marilou Gagnon and Mr. Don MacPherson.

The day-long “Sounding the Alarm” Saturday event was also filled to capacity, with more than 200 healthcare workers and trainees from various sectors gathered to share, learn and inspire. Elder Michael Paul welcomed participants to Wolastoquey Territory with a sweetgrass smudging ceremony and prayer. Marilou Gagnon then provided a very comprehensive keynote presentation on the current state of harm reduction nationally. The day continued with excellent sessions, including: addiction and trauma-informed care; the needle exchange experience on the Elsipogtog First Nation; a video and heartfelt discussion with HANDUP (Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People); a panel discussion on opioid substitution therapy, pharmacists on the front lines, and prescription drug monitoring; and infectious disease complications among people who use drugs. Donald MacPherson, Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, provided the final keynote session, highlighting the number of toxicity deaths and the urgency of taking action on Canada’s ineffective drug policy.

The evaluation of the event was extremely positive, indicating that stakeholders from all over New Brunswick are hungry for more information and requesting another similar symposium consisting of an extra day. A glance at the social media comments provide some indication of the event’s success.

  • The #SoundingtheAlarm symposium gave me hope ! It was amazing to see leaders from ALL sectors coming together to talk about harm reduction. This rarely happens !
  • The #SoundingtheAlarm organizers set formidable examples for academic meetings: hired a local social enterprise for (healthy) catering, donated speakers’ honoraria to local shelters, acknowledged unceded territories, involved Indigenous speakers and persons with lived experience.
  • Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People (HANDUP) screen their film at #SoundingTheAlarm Harm Reduction Symposium. Their inspiring Q&A panel received a standing ovation. Thanks for the work you do!

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