Raffi Balian passed away on February 16, 2017
Raffi was one of the founding members of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC). He was very excited that the founding group was starting an organization that was national in scope and was prepared to advocate strongly for harm reduction, decriminalization of drugs and ultimately regulation.
Raffi always brought such a depth of knowledge to our discussions gained from his own experience and his work over the years with people who used drugs. He clearly understood what it was like to live in the shadows, in a world where the substances that one was using were criminalized and stigmatized. He was always one of the first to identify what the unintended consequences and harms of drug policies would be on the people on the ground. He was a member of the CDPC policy committee and was so appreciative of a place where people came together to talk about drug policies and their impact on people who used drugs. Raffi brought his deep knowledge and commitment to many consultations over the years, often articulating perspectives that opened up new ideas for health authorities to consider when designing harm reduction programs.
Raffi was a significant figure in the landscape of Canadian drug policy and he will be sorely missed by all of us.
The family has requested that any donations be made in Raffi’s memory to the Raffi Balian Fund, to further the work he began in Harm Reduction. The donation website via Canada Help’s can be accessed here or in-person/by mail c/o Rose Shang 955 Queen St E Toronto, ON M4M3P3.