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PWLE National Working Group


This initiative aims to facilitate the engagement of people with lived experience (PWLE) throughout Canada by enhancing national peer networks. Participants engage in implementation science projects and identify advocacy priorities to converge on a national set of actions to address the opioid crisis.



Brandi Abele, CAPUD

Brandi is an advocate for the rights of current and former drug users to be treated as full citizens and human beings in Saskatchewan. She completed training as an addictions counselor (diploma) in 2012, and worked in the Northern community of La Loche from winter 2012 -2016, on both abstinence-based programs and developing harm reduction strategies in the context of a rural, Indigenous community. Brandi is a national board member with the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs.

Matthew Bonn, CAPUD & CSSDP

Matthew is the program coordinator of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, national board member with the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and is a knowledge translator for the Dr. Peters Centre. Matt was one of the cofounders of HaliFIX Overdose Prevention Society which implemented Atlantic Canada’s first Overdose Prevention Site. Matt is also a Canadian Editorial Consultant with Filter – Magazine  a nonprofit media outlet based out of New York. As well as a freelance writer with By Lines in Policy Options, Doctors Nova Scotia, Talking Drugs, CATIE, The Coast and The Conversation. Matt has a business marketing diploma and he is a 3rd year student for Business Commerce at St. Mary’s University.

Frank Crichlow,  COUNTERfit, keepSIX

Frank Crichlow has been a harm reduction worker for over 12 years with COUNTERfit harm reduction program at South Riverdale Community Health Centre.  In his role at COUNTERfit he provides both on and off-site harm reduction education, referrals and distribution. Frank works at both SRCHC’s safe consumption service (keepSIX) and volunteered with the Toronto Overdose Prevention Site at both Moss Park and Parkdale unsanctioned sites. He helped to start and still works at the Riverdale Men’s Group, a wellness program at SRCHC.  Frank is a member of the Stigma & Discrimination Group, the Strategic Implementation Panel and the Drug Policy Committee of the Toronto Drug Strategy, Toronto Public Health. He is a member of the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism committee. He is the Chair of the Toronto Drug Users Union and a member of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance and on the Board of the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs. Frank has spoken on issues of harm reduction for a variety of audiences and venues including academic conferences, research ethics boards and community workshops.

Alexandra de Kiewit, CAPUD

Alexandra worked for five years at Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues (AQPSUD), she now works at Cactus’ supervised injection site and she is a facilitator for PLDI (Positive Leadership Development Institute) in Quebec.

Dawn Lavand, Manitoba Harm Reduction Network 

Cree and Ojibway, Dawn was born and raised in Winnipeg. A former youth in care and a former great deal of other things; she strives to share the teachings and lessons she has learned along her journey in a good way. As a young adult Dawn was drawn to the people and community work of the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network in 2004; starting as an active peer on the Peer Working Group and joins the team this year as Project Coordinator.

Sean LeBlanc, Drug Users Advocacy League (DUAL), Ottawa Inner City Health

Sean was born in Nova Scotia and arrived in Ottawa in 2000 and survived an opioid dependency, homelessness and incarceration. After facing diversity he founded the Drug Users Advocacy League in 2010. Sean later was the co-Principal Investigator of the PROUD Study: Participatory Research in Ottawa Understanding Drugs -at the time the largest community cohort study in Ontario. Sean is dedicated to improving the quality of lives of people who use drugs. Shawn loves his long term partner Catherine, and being from the maritimes.

Micheal Nurse, CAPUD, Black Coaltion for AIDS Prevention

 Michael resides in Toronto. He is an elder and a father of two adult sons and an adult daughter. Michael works in Toronto delivering Harm Reduction-guided support to people who are experiencing challenges related to the use of psychoactive substances. Michael is the national board secretary of the Canacian Association of People Who Use Drugs.

Kathy Pinheiro PWUD, KAPOW

Kathy Pinheiro has over 10 years Harm Reduction experience.  She is a Harm Reduction Peer Support Worker at Sistering which is a 24/7 low barrier drop in for marginalized women and Trans folks in Toronto.  She works as relief and, on an as needed basis for Regent Park Community Health Centre Harm Reduction Program and Consumption Treatment Centre. Kathy lives in a Toronto Community Housing Building where she runs a Satellite Harm Reduction Site on behalf of Parkdale Community Queen West Health Centre thereby assuring the people who use drugs (PWUD) in her building and community have access to Harm Reduction tools and information.  Kathy also has been a long time member of KAPOW (knowledge and power of women) which is a weekly drop-in for drug users and sex workers.  She creates and facilitates Harm Reduction educational workshops which she shares with Shelters and Drop-Ins within the Toronto area.

Alex Sherstobitoff, ANKOR, HOPE

Alex Sherstobitoff lives and works on the unceded territory of the Sinixt, Sylix and Ktunaxa Nations in the West Kootenay/Boundary area of BC.    Alex has lived experience with the use of drugs and is working in the field of Harm Reduction since 1999 with ANKORS (AIDS Network, Outreach & Support Society).  Alex is involved with drug user organizing and continues to work with, develop and establish local user groups such as REDUN (Rural Empowered Drug Users Network) in Nelson, Trail and a group in Grand Forks H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Evolve)  REDUN’s and HOPE’s biggest identified issues have been the stigma and discrimination that people who use drugs experience in their rural communities.  He is a board member of the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors and works to stop overdoses, blood borne infections and empower people who use drugs to take action regarding their needs and ability to exist in their communities.

Natasha Touesnard, CAPUD

Natasha is currently the Executive director of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs. Prior to this role she was the full-time site coordinator at the Open Door Clinic, a family practice and opioid agonist treatment clinic. She was also among several local drug users who co-founded and formed the first drug user group in Atlantic Canada. The Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People was created through their collective vision, and she held the role of Project Coordinator for a number of years. Natasha was on the Canadian Delegation at the 62nd UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 2019 in Vienna, Austria.

Dean Wilson, CAPUD, BCSSU

Dean is a long-time advocate and activist on behalf of people who use drugs. He is the long-term peer representative for the Portland Hotel Society and is the peer facilitation lead at the British Columbia Centre for Substance Use.