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Seeking to Reduce Harm Podcast

Decriminalization, Harm Reduction and The United Church of Canada

About the Podcast

Episode Notes and More Information

Episode One : Dr. Rick Csiernik

This introductory podcast features Dr. Rick Csiernik, a professor in the Province of Ontario but someone who has studied and engaged harm reduction, substance use, and social services from both the front lines to academics. Dr. Csiernik has written many books about drug use and our relationship with these conversations that are worth noting (many of these resources are at the bottom of the page). This podcast is a good introductory piece into the conversations that will be explored throughout this series.

Guest: Dr. Rick Csiernik, Professor of Social Work and Author

Episode Two : Prairie Harm Reduction 

Prairie Harm Reduction is the organization that hosts the province of Saskatchewan’s only supervised consumption site and the only safe smoking room in Canada. The conversation today considers the ways in which we are engagin people and how we might be a presence in this world that provides ‘dignity, respect, and equall accesses’ to support and services for all people

Guests: Kayla DeMong, Executive Director, Prairie Harm Reduction and Dr. Ali Tote, Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church in Saskatoon and a board member of Prairie Harm Reduction.


Episode Three : David Wilks

In this episode, we speak with David Wilks the Mayor of Sparwood, British Columbia and the former Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia. David shares about his lived experience with alcohol and his addiction to the substance. He is the first sitting Member of Parliament that shared their story with addiction in a speech in the House of Commons. We will hear David’s story of how he worked, and works, through his addiction on a daily basis and how he credits Alcoholics Anonymous with his journey as he navigates this life.

Guest: David Wilks, former Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia and Mayor of Sparwood, British Columbia.


Episode Four : Gord Johns

We discuss the work that Member of Parliament Gord Johns is working on regarding his private members bill, Bill C-216, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to enact the Expungement of Certain Drug-related Convictions Act and the National Strategy on Substance Use Act, which will bring the conversation regarding decriminalization for personal use to the forefront against. In 2018 British Columbia Conference invited The United Church of Canada’s General Council to engage the federal government in calling on Decriminalization of Illicit Substances for Personal Use to the Federal Government through their proposal. At the time the proposal was not engaged by the floor of the General Council and went to the Executive. Since then, conversations throughout the church have been occurring, and much of what has been discussed is similar to what Gord has been discovering in his preparation for Bill C-216.

Guest: Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtney-Alberni


Episode Five : Nathaniel Erskin-Smith 

The following podcast is the final in this series. Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskin-Smith shares with us his engagement in harm reduction and decriminalization from within the government in power as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. He discusses his experiences advocating for harm reduction and decriminalization services and his fight for support for people who are living with substance use disorder or experiencing death due to the toxic drug crisis in Canada. Nathaniel highlights much of what has been shared previously, and yet provides a different perspective, as he is experiencing urban Toronto stories as a member from the city.

Guest: Nathaniel Erskin-Smith, Member of Parliament for Beaches-East York

Podcast Host and Staff Support



Minister, Justice and Faith Formation

Phone: 416-231-7680  |  1-800-268-3781
Extension: 6773
Email: jdale@united-church.ca 

Serves in: Shining Waters Regional Council and Canadian Shield Regional Council

Location: Teleworks and works in the Guthrie office

Role: Jeffrey encourages and connects communities of faith with matters of faith and justice and the regional council in youth and young adult ministry and matters of faith formation and liaises with the General Council in this regard.

Contact Jeffrey about: Affirming Ministry; Camping Ministries; Faith Formation; Guaranteed Income; Harm Reduction; Homelessness; Poverty; Social and Eco-justice; Worship and Music; Youth and Young Adult Ministry, United Church Women (UCW)