Women Deprived of Liberty Due to Drug-Related Offences in Canada

Submission to the United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (“Legal Network”) welcomes this opportunity to provide comments to the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice (“Working Group”) on the issue of women deprived of liberty, in advance of the Working Group’s presentation of its report on this topic at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.

In this brief, the Legal Network provides information about women deprived of liberty due to the criminalization of people who use drugs in Canada. Many of these women commit non-violent drug-related offences and are incarcerated with little public safety rationale, and would be better served by non-custodial alternatives to prison. Moreover, women who use drugs in detention lack equivalent access to essential harm reduction measures. Canada’s punitive approach to drug policy has resulted in severe human rights violations against women, and continues to disproportionately affect women who use drugs, especially those from racialized and Indigenous communities.

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