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Our goals in this work are to challenge and eliminate the stigmatizing beliefs and laws that lead to the discrimination and criminalization of people who rely on public space for their work and shelter, people who use and sell drugs, and people who do sex work, because stigma and poverty negatively impact people’s access to quality housing, food security, employment opportunities, health outcomes, self-esteem, and life expectancy.

We have some exciting projects in the works right now to enshrine protections in law to ensure that no one is discriminated against or criminalized on the basis of their social condition. We will be holding municipal policy makers accountable to the harmful impacts of stigmatizing bylaws which result in the marginalization and criminalization of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

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Past Victories

Fighting burdensome bail conditions

Pivot has long drawn attention to the harms of bail conditions and how frequently and arbitrarily they are imposed, disproportionately against communities who are over-criminalized, over-incarcerated, and routinely targeted by police. In our 2018 report Project Inclusion, we found that certain bail conditions in particular—namely, abstinence conditions, ‘no drug paraphernalia’ conditions, and area restrictions or ‘red zones’—cause people harm and directly undermine personal and public health and safety. 

Over the last two years, we have had some success in changing law and policy around bail conditions that impact people who use drugs. In April 2019, the Director of Public Prosecutions directed federal Crown prosecutors to minimize detention for breaches of bail conditions, in part by no longer imposing the three above-mentioned conditions on people experiencing addiction.  The Directive cites Project Inclusion as evidence that imprisonment for minor breaches related to substance use can adversely affect people’s tolerance levels for opioid use and put them at increased risk of overdose after release from jail.

In December 2019, Pivot intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in a case called R v Zora: a case about bail breaches that ultimately marked a new path forward for Canada’s broken bail system. We argued that proving a breach must be a tailored exercise—one that takes into account the lived experience and subjective circumstances of the person accused. Unanimously, the Court agreed.

Influencing the Director of Public Prosecutions' Bail Conditions Direction

On April 1, 2019, the Director of Public Prosecutions directed federal Crown prosecutors to minimize detentions for breaches of bail conditions, in part by no longer imposing the following bail conditions on people experiencing addiction: 'abstinence’ conditions, prohibitions on carrying ‘drug paraphernalia,' and area restrictions (or “red zones”). The direction is adapted in part from Project Inclusion's recommendations.

Bail conditions and affiliated breaches lead to rampant liberty infringements, over-incarceration, and an increase in harms associated with incarceration, including heightened stigma and loss of income, housing, or employment. The Public Prosecution Service's guideline cites Project Inclusion, acknowledging that breaches related to one’s drug use can also adversely affect one’s drug tolerance and put people at heightened risk of overdose following release. Read more about the importance of this direction here.