Donald MacPherson, Executive Director
Donald MacPherson is one of Canada’s leading figures in drug policy. He advocates for drug policies based on principles of public health, scientific evidence, human rights, and social inclusion. He is involved in drug policy work at local, national, and international levels, and is a founding member of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. Formerly, MacPherson was North America’s first Drug Policy Coordinator at the City of Vancouver where he worked for 22 years. He is the author of Vancouver’s ground-breaking Four Pillars Drug Strategy, which called for new approaches to drug problems based on public health principles and the appropriate regulation of all psychoactive substances.
MacPherson is also co-author of Raise Shit! Social Action Saving Lives (2009) and More Harm than Good: Drug Policy in Canada (2016). In 2007, he received the Kaiser Foundation National Award of Excellence in Public Policy in Canada. In 2009, he was awarded the Richard Dennis Drug Peace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform by the Drug Policy Alliance in the United States, and the City of Vancouver was awarded the Canadian Urban Institutes Secure City Award for the Four Pillars Drug Strategy.
MacPherson also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for his work in drug policy reform. In 2017, he was presented with the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy at Simon Fraser University; and in 2019, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BC Centre on Substance Use. MacPherson is also an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and holds an honorary doctorate from Adler University (2019) for his work in human rights.
Erin Howley, Qualitative Research Associate
Erin Howley is Canadian Drug Policy Coalition’s Qualitative Research Associate, where she is leading national research on methods of safe supply. In this work, she hopes to further practical approaches to ensuring the safety and rights of people who use drugs, and the public at large. Erin brings over 10 years of expertise at the convergence of community-based research and adult education within prison, healthcare and neighborhood settings. She has led multiple research and evaluation projects focused on harm reduction, mental health, and social inclusion within frontline health and social service organizations. Erin is a recognized leader of grassroots education initiatives; she believes in the power of joint community learning and mutual knowledge-sharing to effect broad-scale change.
Prior to joining Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Erin was the Artistic Director for CONSENT IS, an arts-based public education campaign about the meaning of consent for marginalized people. She earned her MA in environmental studies from York University, with a specialization in psycho-social and trauma-informed facilitation practices with substance use communities.
Scott Bernstein, Director of Policy
Scott Bernstein is Director of Policy with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, where he leads the organization’s work on legal regulation of drugs, decriminalization, and international drug policy. Through his own legal practice and with Vancouver-based non-profit Pivot Legal Society, Scott has participated in strategic litigation focused on advancing human rights of people who use drugs, including challenging municipal anti-harm reduction bylaws, advocating for access to prescription heroin treatment, and defending Insite, North America’s first sanctioned injection site in the Supreme Court of Canada and lower courts.
Prior to joining CDPC, Scott was a program officer with the Global Drug Policy Program of Open Society Foundations in New York. There, he supported collaboration within a global reform movement targeted at the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session through grant-making, policy expertise and strategic planning, as well as supporting a nascent drug policy reform movement in Africa. Scott has a MSc in environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin and a JD from the University of British Columbia.
Beeta Senedjani, Dialogues Project Assistant
Beeta Senedjani is CDPC's Dialogues Project Assistant, where she assists with the national dialogues Getting to Tomorrow and the provincial (BC) dialogues project Broken Drug Policies. She is an experienced project manager and brings with her nearly 10 years of experience in the health and social services sector. Most recently, Beeta developed a youth-centered mental health promotion program at Planned Parenthood Toronto. She also facilitates life skills, yoga and mindfulness groups for youth in Scarborough and Rexdale as part of her work with New Leaf Foundation. Beeta is a board member of the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre and a long-time volunteer for the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. She also is a member of Greenhouse Theatre, a Scarborough-based arts collective. Beeta received her MEd from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, specializing in Social Justice Education. In her spare time, Beeta enjoys forest-bathing and mushroom-hunting.
Nicole Luongo, Systems Change Coordinator
Nicole Luongo was born and raised on the unceded, traditional territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations (Vancouver, B. C.). She is the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition’s BC systems change coordinator, where she oversees a project that advances education and advocacy around legal regulation. She is passionate about moving the conversation on drug policy beyond decriminalization and is guided by experiential knowledge of illicit drug use and homelessness.
Nicole has spent a decade working in solidarity with those most impacted by the intersections of drug prohibition, housing-deprivation, and disability (in)justice, including as a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs (CAPUD). Her academic background is in medical sociology, and she mostly conducts research in the fields of Mad and critical drug studies. Before joining the CDPC, Nicole taught college in Alberta and throughout the Lower Mainland.
Peter Kim, Director of Communications and Digital Engagement
Peter Kim is the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition's digital and communications strategist, with a passion for high-impact storytelling and extensive experience in the media field. For over a decade he was a digital, broadcast, and data journalist in Vancouver and Toronto, where he worked for Global News, Citytv, and CKNW. As a reporter, he has covered a wide range of topics, from politics to health, technology, and social justice. His experience covering the founding and growth of the Canadian Black Lives Matter movement in Toronto was the impetus for his transition into communications within the social change sector. In 2007, Peter was awarded an RTNDA Dan McArthur Award for In-Depth Investigation, and as a student, founded his school's chapter of Journalist for Human Rights.
He is the founder of the Vancouver chapter of Data for Good, where he has led and managed the growth of a team of over 300 data scientists, engineers, and programmers committed to positive social change. Their first datathon was in support of the Vancouver Overdose Prevention Society and their life-saving work in the Downtown Eastside.
Prior to joining the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Peter was the Communications and Digital Engagement Manager at Pivot Legal Society, where he helped transform and expand the organization's digital presence and advocacy strategies in service of marginalized communities, including people who use drugs, sex workers, people affected by homelessness, and those impacted by police violence. He is also a part-time college instructor, teaching digital and data visualization.
Nathaniel Canuel, Digital Media Producer
Nathaniel Canuel is the Digital Media Producer and an award-winning videographer with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. He specializes in digital storytelling and has been producing short films and documentaries since elementary school. He has combined his filmmaking skills with a passion for fundraising and positive social impact. For over a decade, Nathaniel was based in East Africa where he worked as a videographer and communications specialist in the non-profit/NGO sector, helping organizations create content to tell their stories in an impactful way. In 2015, Nathaniel joined UN-Habitat (United Nations agency for cities and slums) where he traveled internationally to document the stories and successes of UN beneficiaries and grassroots organizations on the frontlines of positive social change.
Nathaniel is also co-founder of “Up With Hope,” a youth led organization established in 2008 aimed at helping young leaders build physical space within informal settlements. Together with other youth activists, Nathaniel has made significant contributions to public space and waste management in the informal sector and has established numerous youth-led waste management facilities, social halls, IT centres, community gardens, soccer fields, and other income-generating projects.
Shay Vanderschaeghe, Stimulus Program Coordinator
Shay is the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition’s Stimulus 2020 Coordinator. Shay was born in rural Manitoba and has lived her adult life in Alberta where she has been working and leading regional and provincial HIV and harm reduction organizations since 1993. During her 14 years as their Executive Director, Shay successfully transitioned Turning Point Society through an expansion of scope and name change, as well as diversified the organization's funding base to include NightReach, The Women’s Program, and fee for service. Shay’s community work has included creating or supporting the creation of community-based non-profits, including the Central Alberta Pride Society, Safe Harbour Society, Central Alberta Rainbow Youth, and the Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society. She also volunteers in an executive position on the board of directors with the Community Legal Clinic.
During her work in Alberta’s non-profit sector Shay worked collaboratively to plan and implement all 13 Alberta harm reduction conferences, and then successfully coordinated the first-ever Stimulus 2018: Drugs, Policy and Practice conference in Canada while working for Streetworks. During her career, Shay has won the HIV Community Link Roger Leclerc Award and the Women of Excellence Award in Health.
Prior to joining the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Shay worked for Heritage Family Services in increasing their LGBTQ+ cultural capacity and creating Haven, the first group home for gender and/or sexually diverse youth in care in Canada. Haven reached its 100% occupancy in the first year. By joining the CDPC, she hopes to magnify the reach of the Stimulus national conference to include more people with lived experience and other advocates from frontier and rural communities to showcase their innovation, resilience, and relationship success.
In her time off, Shay enjoys off-grid camping, movies, social media, and international travel. Her favourite quote is “All that is not given is lost," from Hasari Pal. Shay works from her home office with her dog Lyric in Red Deer, Alberta.
Shane Calder, Dialogues Project Coordinator
Shane is the Coordinator of CDPC’s national dialogue series Getting to Tomorrow. Born and raised on Lekwungen territory (Victoria, BC), he has been involved in community organizing since 1993. Focusing primarily on issues of poverty, homelessness, and workers' rights, Shane has acted in solidarity with many struggles through the organizing of community events and displays of resistance. Shane has a diverse range of organizing experience, from rallies of thousands to forums of a few, and everything in between. He is an experienced facilitator, educator, and public speaker who takes joy in being involved in grassroots organizing, shifting over the years to embrace a more heart-centred approach, and seeking to embody principles of anti-oppressive practice and collaboration into his organizing efforts.
Being a leading figure of more than one mass movement, Shane moved into a position with AVI Health and Community Services (formerly AIDS Vancouver Island) in 2008, when it was an organization in crisis due to the loss of its needle distribution program and intense public opposition. During this time, Shane had the privilege of working alongside People with Lived Experience of drug criminalization and their allies. Organizing resistance to the stigma and structural violence experienced by those at the very heart of the war on drugs had a profound impact on Shane and the relationships gained, and lost, during this time, impact him still. During his time at AVI he had the privilege of co-creating the Street College Program, the Annual Convergence for People Who use Drugs, Harm Reduction Victoria, the Yes2scs Campaign (yes to supervise consumption services), and the South Island Community Overdose Response Network. Further, Shane has had the honour of working with SOLID Outreach Services and the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, both deeply influential groups by and for people overcoming the war on drugs.
Daniel Gates, International Policy Officer
Daniel Gates is a current Bachelor of Laws/Global Studies student at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and has been working in the international drug policy space since 2020. He is the current Co-Chair of the Canadian Civil Society Working Group on International Drug Policy, which advises the Government of Canada on its engagement with drug policy at an international level. He is also Civil Society Liaison for the Working Group. While in Vancouver, Daniel was a volunteer at the Vancouver Overdose Prevention Society; and as a research intern at the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, he developed the Regulation Game spinoffs, the Decriminalization Game, and the Safe Supply Game.