As a leading advocate for the implementation of harm reduction, I am wholeheartedly committed to drug policy reform, an approach that accepts individuals for where they are at, while empowering them to appreciate themselves as whole.
I have been working in drug policy reform since 1998. It started in Vancouver with my serious concerns about the plight of people who were injecting drugs on the streets of my own neighbourhood, and inspired my own journey of discovery, moving from fear and doubt to commitment and action. I realised that one of the biggest barriers facing the poverty stricken community of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver was the Federal law prohibiting certain drugs.
See my interview for the April 2014 issue of Skunk Magazine. “... Gillian Maxwell, bridge builder, a kind soul with an open heart, and a visionary sense of justice.”
How does drug policy link to the new paradigm? In the old model, people are scapegoated and held in poverty in the name of the war on drugs. This limits our ability to collectively raise consciousness because inherently it labels people as good and bad. We are all responsible for this because we are the ones who vote for the people who pass these laws. Finding our own voices empowers us to stand up for each other. Reform is crucial. The end of drug prohibition will signify a new consciousness that demands profound systemic change. My passion is changing existing drug policy.
Canada needs a new drug policy, one that acknowledges the reality of drug use and better protects Canadians from harm. I am a founding member of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, a network of over 70 organisations from across Canada that envisions a safe, healthy and just Canada, where drug policies are based on research and best practices, human rights, social inclusion and public health.
“Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.” Milton Friedman
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
“If a business strategy were failing and instead of curbing a problem made it worse, would you keep it going or would you stop and consider an alternative course? Strangely, the trillion dollar war on drugs has persisted for 40 years even though it is the most dismal global policy failure of our time.” Sir Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Group
Gabor Mate, M.D., Author of "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction"
"Gillian Maxwell is a gentle but powerful, creative and highly informed broker of truth and information on all subjects related to drug policy. Her commitment is to a compassionate, evidence-based and scientifically grounded approach to drugs and to how society views and responds to the challenges of drug use and drug addiction. I have found it a pleasure and privilege to work with Gillian and look forward to doing so whenever the opportunity presents itself."
Philip Owen, Former Mayor of Vancouver, BC, Canada
"I have known Gillian Maxwell for nearly two decades and she has always worked hard to improve Public Health and Public Order in the DTES of Vancouver which has led to improved quality of life for addicted and impoverished citizens. During my nine years as Mayor she was a great and consistent resource. In addition, she has organized many study groups and tours to inform people about the serious social issues in Vancouver."
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Ottawa, Ontario
"Gillian is a key person in the community of people working in Vancouver for positive change in how we view problematic drug use. She is able to link people up and convey new ideas across the spectrum of society, which has contributed to Vancouver being a leader in Canada and the world in pragmatic thinking and policy on the social determinants of addiction."
Dr. Perry Kendall, BC Provincial Health Officer, Canada
"I have had the privilege of knowing Gillian Maxwell for over 10 years. She has been an influential and respected community leader and advocate for the adoption of knowledge based drug policy, practical and humane responses to drug addiction and in addition has shown strong and continued personal commitment and dedication to building and supporting meaningful community capacity."