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Int J Drug Policy. 2014 Mar;25(2):190-5. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.12.001. Epub 2013 Dec 18.

The Canadian war on drugs: structural violence and unequal treatment of Black Canadians.

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Office of Transformative Global Health, CAMH - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada; Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada. Electronic address:


This paper examines the impact of Canada's war on drugs on segments of the Black community, specifically with respect to the impact of structural violence, over-policing, and high incarceration rates. It offers evidence of the systemic nature of these dynamics by examining the early context of the war, growing stigma against Blacks, globalizing influences, and the punitive focus of funding and policy. The paper also explores how Black men have been identified as the main enemy and how drug control efforts have served to diminish the health, well-being, and self-image of Black men via discriminatory and inequitable treatment before the law. The current high rates of imprisonment of Black men are an indicator of systematic deprivation of significant social capital, which will perpetuate socioeconomic harm and cycles of violence. This commentary calls for an immediate dissolution of policies regulating the war on drugs as the first step in remedying the injustices experienced by Black Canadians. Due to the lack of Canadian data in this important area, the paper also emphasizes the critical need for more research to shed more light on the Canadian-specific complexities.


Anti-Black stigma; Human rights; Racial incarceration; Structural violence; War on drugs

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