The Youth Harm Reduction Team is composed of peer youth ages 16-24 who have lived experiences of drug use, sex and/or sex work. We aim to challenge stigma, create awareness and increase knowledge of harm reduction practices through the development of resources, workshops and trainings for youth, parents and the service providers who work with them. This team is supported by Skylark Children Youth & Families. To learn more about additional programs and services at Skylark, please view www.skylarkyouth.org
WHAT IS HARM REDUCTION?
Harm reduction is a set of values and practices, which places the needs and wants voiced by the client at the forefront of their treatment. Harm reduction does not condone or condemn drug use. Rather, it is drug neutral, recognizing that substance use, sex and/or sex work is a reality for many young people. Harm reduction aims to raise awareness of the potential risks of substance use and sex work while actively working to minimize them. In addition, harm reduction seeks to reduce the social, economic and systemic harms that are often associated with drug use, sex and sex work, such as, criminalization, marginalization and discrimination.
WHY HARM REDUCTION FOR YOUTH?
Harm reduction recognizes that for many young people, engaging in substance use and having sex is a part of life. While harm reduction does not promote substance use, sex, or sex work, it doesn't condemn them either. Instead, it understands that this is a lived reality for many, and trusts that young people are more than capable of making decisions about their lives. At the heart of the work, harm reduction strives to ensure that young people are as safe as possible – a goal that is best reached through realistic, non-judgmental education that encourages critical thought and gives space for them to make informed choices.
MEET THE TEAM!
From back to front and left to right: Mahalia Dixon, Emman Mahmood, Nick Jakubiak, Hunter Caldwell, Owen Heathcote Fraser, Danielle Sutherland (former manager), Riven Thorne and Jordana Rovet (project coordinator).
The members of the Youth Harm Reduction Team (YHRT) currently operate on the land often recorded in colonial records as the territory of the Anashnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Petun, Seneca and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. These lands have been, and will continue to be, the home to many First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and Indigenous (FNMI) peoples whose histories and futures continue to live on in the land.
While the land which we are situated on is stolen land that was forcibly taken through dispossession, displacement and genocide, we would also like to acknowledge that FNMI communities have a long history of active resistance towards ongoing colonization. Colonization is not just a piece of history, instead, it is an ongoing and pervasive set of practices, values, and systems set up to disenfranchise, marginalize, and incarcerate Indigenous peoples.
At present, the YHRT is composed entirely of non-Indigenous settlers who have come to this land by choice and by force. As direct benefactors of colonial systems, we recognize that through our presence as non-Indigenous people taking up space in harm reduction, we do contribute to the ongoing silencing of Indigenous voices and experiences. Part of this work is an aim to unseat ourselves from these positions of power, and fight for, and alongside, Indigenous peoples to make space for FNMI communities to fully regain autonomy over their land and lives.
This statement is but one small part of a lifelong commitment to work in solidarity with the Indigenous communities that exist on Turtle Island.