More About MacPherson

Donald MacPherson is one of Canada’s leading advocates for taking a new approach to addressing Canada’s drug problems – a direction that is based on principles of public health, human rights, social inclusion, belonging and scientific evidence. Shifting our strategies from a criminal justice paradigm where people with health problems are criminalized, to one that has the maximization of social development and public health as primary goals will provide many more benefits to communities than the tired old punitive approaches. He believes that drug problems in society are reflective of broader social, cultural and economic dynamics and are a lens through which to see wider societal forces at play. MacPherson is currently the Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition a national civil society organization with the goal of advancing improvements to Canadian drug policy. He holds an Adjunct Professor position in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

MacPherson is the author of Vancouver’s groundbreaking Four Pillars Drug Strategy that precipitated a broad public discussion on issues related to addiction in Vancouver. The Four Pillars Strategy calls for a new approach to drug problems in Vancouver based on public health principles and the appropriate regulation of all psychoactive substances. In 2007 he was awarded a Kaiser Foundation National Award of Excellence in Public Policy. In June of 2009 the City of Vancouver was awarded the Canadian Urban Institutes Secure City Award for the City’s continuing advocacy for services that create a more secure city for all residents. In November of 2009 MacPherson received the highest award of the Drug Policy Alliance at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque New Mexico, the Richard J. Dennis Drug Peace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform. Watch the video.

MacPherson has lived in many places in Canada including Ottawa, St. John’s, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Whitehorse and Vancouver. Since arriving in Vancouver in 1986 he has worked at the Carnegie Community Centre in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in 1987 with the City of Vancouver, the Carnegie Community Centre Association and other local organizations to provide a wide range of services to the community. In 2000 he became the first Drug Policy Coordinator for the City of Vancouver. He attended undergraduate studies at Concordia University in Montreal and graduate studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education where he focused on Adult Education and Participatory Research. He currently is involved in local, national and international efforts to build capacity for change within the area of drug policy. He recently left his job with the City of Vancouver to work with others across Canada on the development of a national civil society network on drug policy. He speaks about his work and issues related to drug policy at conferences, meetings and special events and works with diverse organizations to bring about more compassionate and effective drug policies.

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