Thrown Under the Omnibus

The idea for the Toronto forum on Bill C10 (the Safe Streets & Communities Act) – “Thrown Under the Omnibus” – was hatched at the harm reduction conference in Ottawa this past summer, during a round-table session that wrapped up the final day. Representatives of five Toronto-based organisations were present – The Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force, The Social Justice committee of the Community Justice Coalition, The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, PASAN and The Canadian Harm Reduction Network, as well as Donald MacPherson from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. It was decided that we would jointly host a forum on Bill C10 in Toronto, as one of a number of community events across Canada supported by the Coalition.

Back in Toronto, we struck a planning committee culled from the five organisations. The committee also included a current drug user, a person on methadone, a former prisoner, and a very valuable volunteer who because of her employment found it prudent to remain anonymous. Such is life now in the big smoke!

The Forum itself was very well attended. With an audience of about 225 people almost every seat was filled. It was well moderated and stimulating, and audience questions were addressed with thoroughness and respect.

There was an excellent networking social after the Forum. We picked up a large number of addresses for our growing mailing list. We had a positive article in the National Post. We also saw many new faces. We had made a particular effort to expand our reach to people outside our usual social services, prison activist and policy lists … particularly into the arts communities, for example … and a number of them turned up.

What would I do differently the next time?

Ensure that there is a next time. We need to build on interest and success. Put greater concentration on expanding the audience base. We need to “convert” even more than we need to speak to the converted. We need to form new relationships and coalitions as well as nurturing existing ones.

Do more with social media. We did some … but none of us was particularly savvy.Really court the media. We did a lot … but obviously we need to do more. Hold a post mortem. We never did it. Perhaps we still will.

Really celebrate our success.

About CDPC

We are an independent civil society network of organizations and individuals working to improve Canada’s drug policies. Staff occasionally re-post important articles and curate this space with guest bloggers from our network.