DJ Larkin

Pronouns: they/them

Location: xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) lands called Vancouver

DJ lawyer and advocate who has worked to centre and amplify the voices of people experiencing criminalization and systemic marginalization for over a decade. They engage in research, policy analysis, knowledge sharing, advocacy and communications to shed light on the systemic exclusion and marginalization of people living at intersections of poverty, housing insecurity, and criminalized substance use aimed at creating systemic legislative and policy reform. They have also represented both elected and hereditary Indigenous governments in litigation to advance their inherent rights.

At CDPC, DJ is working to support a team of brilliant and driven staff and to continue to build a sustainable, equitable and effective national organization advancing drug policy grounded in evidence and human rights to help bring an end to a preventable crisis that has taken over 13,000 of our loved ones.

DJ currently lives on the unceded Indigenous lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples, and is committed to lifelong learning, self-improvement, and action to dismantle settler colonialism.Headshot

What’s something about you that would surprise others to know:

I am secretly obsessed with glitter. I would put glitter on almost anything if you’d let me.

Organization: Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Region: National

What unique role do you or your organization play in the progressive movement in Canada?

CDPC works to be a convener and resource for people who use drugs, front-line service providers, policy makers, academics and advocates. In this movement, most people are trying to advance education and policy off the sides of their desks while literally saving lives every day. CDPC staff have the privilege of time and resources to dedicate to these broader policy issues – and with that we have an obligation to use those resources to best support our partners and communities.

What part of movement infrastructure are you interested in building in the next decade?

Shared knowledge, resources and communications, and more cross-sector solidarity. We work so hard to be exacting and thoughtful in our communications and our work, but we have few resources to help build that common ground amongst the movement. This comes into stark relief when faced with politicized disinformation that, while untrue, is easy to digest and believe. We also need to build relationships and solidarity across sectors. Systemic marginalization is often commonly rooted and we are more able to name it and advocate for change when we work across sectors. For example, few people think of how this country’s drug policy is a significant driver of environmental destruction in the Amazon basin – we need to build those connections.

Mission & Mandate

CDPC’s mission is to advance and realize drug policies grounded evidence, human rights, and public health principles, and that centre the experiences and expertise of people most impacted by the toxic, unregulated drug crisis. Our mandate is to engage in policy development, knowledge sharing, evidence-based advocacy, and capacity building in partnership with organizations and individuals across the country and around the world.

Who is your audience? Who are you trying to influence and engage?

Policy makers and members of the public who are interested and seeking to be informed and/or have been influenced by misinformation and are open to challenging their views.

One thing people might not know about your organization

That CDPC has been around for over a decade, but until three years ago was mostly staffed by 1-2 people. We are now a team of 10!

A win you’re celebrating with your organization

Systems Change Coordinator, Nicole Luongo, has been awarded the SFU Sterling Prize for Controversy, and in the last 2 months we have successfully engaged with the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate to bring forward drug policy issues for people living in encampments and brought together a community of union leaders looking improve drug policy on the shop floor.

A challenge you’re working through with your organization

CDPC has only in the last few months transitioned from the leadership of its founding director. With big shoes to fill, we find ourselves building up internal systems and rebuilding our financial strength while maintaining a fast-paced work environment.