Zoë Dodd’s paying job is as a front line harm reduction and support worker at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, where she works with a diverse community of clients who experience difficulties accessing conventional medical, social and community services due to low literacy or income levels; housing, family or drug use problems; gender, race, culture or mental health issues.
However, when someone asks Zoë what she does, the list is far longer.
Zoë is a community activist, concerned with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, poverty and harm reduction. She co-founded the hepatitis C program in Toronto and has been coordinating it for more than ten years; a program that has been replicated around Ontario. She is a member of local community activist organizations including AIDS Action Now! and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
Over the past year Zoë has been featured frequently in the news. After organizing a march demanding increased government action to prevent drug overdoses, she famously confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the need to address the national opioid overdose crisis last May.
Then she took matters into her own hands. With too many people dying every month from opioid related overdoses Zoë, along with other volunteers, started operating an overdose prevention program out of a trailer in Moss Park last August. Zoë co-organized the unsanctioned program when three official supervised-injection sites had been approved for Toronto, but not yet opened. The site is heavily used, has prevented untold number of deaths and is finally moving to a permanent inside location this month.
Zoë has been not only an organizer, but also a lead activist with the site. Said Toronto city councilor Joe Cressy, “These courageous activists willingly broke the law to save lives. And not only did they save lives, they changed federal and provincial policy.”
As a worker and as an activist, Zoë practices community development, popular education and harm reduction within a social justice framework. Through publications, public speaking, and through her actions, Zoë is making changes to improve conditions in which people live. People in our city, in our community.
Her activism, her leadership, and her compassion are emblematic of the Casey Awards and the spirit of June Callwood.