October 20, 2017 -- It’s been a busy few weeks at the Legal Network as staff members have travelled to Geneva, Kingston (Jamaica), and Moscow, and the effects of their work is being felt across the globe.
As a direct result of the Legal Network’s advocacy, UN human rights bodies recently challenged the criminalization of people who use drugs in Canada and Russia.
In response to the our written submission and on-the-ground advocacy in Geneva, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recognized the harmful impact that drug policy in Canada has on racialized communities. The CERD Committee expressed serious concern about the disproportionately high rate of incarceration of Indigenous and Black people for drug crimes in Canada, and called on Canada to re-examine its drug policies and provide evidence-based alternatives to prison time for non-violent drug users.
This is the first time a UN treaty body has ever drawn the link between the criminalization of people who use drugs and racism in its recommendations to Canada. We’re now working on actual implementation of CERD’s groundbreaking guidance.
Much-needed drug policy reform was articulated recently by yet another UN body: the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) just recommended that Russia change its punitive approach to drug policy and consider decriminalizing drugs for personal consumption. The Legal Network played a key role in this success by contributing to a Shadow Report alongside our partner, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice. In its Concluding Observations, CESCR expressed its concern of the increased incarceration of people who use drugs and the lack of harm reduction programs, urging Russia to adopt a human rights–based approach. These recommendations have regional and global significance, and provide a solid foundation as we continue to challenge unjust laws and policies in the region.
As we celebrate these recent wins — including an important conference with international faith leaders in Kingston (Jamaica) on challenging the anti-sodomy laws in the Commonwealth, followed by yet another successful Montego Bay Pride — we know we cannot rest on our laurels. Our work is not done until the health and human rights of ALL are protected and fulfilled.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
P.S. If you believe we do great work why not get involved? Join us by becoming a member.