A UCP-linked abstinence cheerleader harboured an alleged abuser

For the last thirteen years, Last Door Recovery Centre contracted a security guard and fitness instructor now facing allegations of sexualized violence against people in addiction treatment.

A UCP-linked abstinence cheerleader harboured an alleged abuser


Note: I am connecting dots among sometimes disparate publicly available data. The statements made herein are my opinions, and police investigations have yet to unfold.

It is hard to overstate the potential impact of allegations against a longtime contractor at Last Door Recovery Centre.

Tweet by Kara Whitlock saying "Last Door's legacy of sexualized violence is New Westminster's worst kept secret." It is a quote tweet of Nicole Luongo describing the Vancouver Sun article published February 3.
Is this a moment of reckoning for alleged victims of sexual abuse at Last Door and its affiliate Westminster House?

Since 2010, Last Door, a men’s recovery facility, has contracted someone who is alleged to have sexually assaulted multiple clients of Westminster House, an affiliated treatment centre for women.

The story details an anonymously created Facebook group primarily comprising “current and past clients of Last Door.” In this group, multiple women (not clients of Last Door, a men’s-only facility) alleged having experienced sexual violence at the hands of a purported security guard and fitness instructor contracted by Last Door after he completed their treatment program in 2010.

The abuse allegations centre on a process by which the Last Door contractor would provide a place to stay for clients, presumably women, who were experiencing a relapse or resumption of drug use. The women were allegedly assaulted by the Last Door contractor during such stays.

Relapse is extremely common among people who seek treatment, particularly for opioid use, but no data is currently shared by these or other treatment facilities on how frequently their clients resume drug use following abstinence-based treatment.

A five-minute walk apart, Last Door and Westminster House regularly run events together where clients and staff mingle. This Vancouver Sun story is the first mention of sexual abuse at either facility on public record, to my knowledge.

Update (Feb 10): Global News ran a follow-up story in which one of the alleged victims speaks about her experience, and suggested that the accused individual “held such a good standing with the people that run the Last Door organization… [she] thinks that that made him feel like he was untouchable”. In addition, she said that the misconduct was “going on for well over a decade” and that she and others brought their stories to Westminster House, countering the Westminster House statement that “Allegations have never been reported to WHS leadership. We have never had any complaints of misconduct from women in our care…”

Cheerleader and benefactor of UCP abstinence policy

Last Door has long tentacles in Alberta’s abstinence-based treatment ecosystem.

Giuseppe Ganci, Director of Community Development at Last Door, is also Chair of Recovery Capital Conference of Canada, which draws international keynote speakers renowned for hardline positions against harm reduction and drug policy reform: a regular who’s-who of prohibitionist thinking. Calgary has the unique pleasure of hosting a conference on February 21 and 22, at $530 a head:

The Alberta Recovery Conference: Overcoming Addiction. Speakers and sponsors shown on the poster. Sponsors include Last Door and Westminster House.
The Alberta Recovery Conference is coming to Calgary on February 21-22, 2023. Sponsors circled in red: Last Door, who also organizes the conference, and Westminster House. Speakers include Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee (top-left), Premier Smith’s chief of staff Marshall Smith (bottom-right) and Alberta’s Mental Health & Addiction Minister Nicholas Milliken (top-left). Sponsors also include Calgary Homeless Foundation, the Alberta Government and Alberta Health Services.

I have many questions about this conference, but the most immediate is:

How do Calgary Homeless Foundation, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Government respond to being in the company of organizations that are alleged to have harboured a seemingly widespread sexual abuse scandal?

Ganci is frequently seen with Premier Smith’s chief of staff, Marshall Smith. Their varied unsavoury connections were brilliantly detailed in a recent thread by Kent Clark. These include Take Back Alberta, BC Proud, and the Chip Wilson-backed Pacific Prosperity Network.

In 2022, the UCP Government announced it would implement Last Door’s My Recovery Plan app, ostensibly to address serious systemic gaps in transparency of wait times, program completion rates, relapse rates and so on. But the only details revealed are that the app will “link facilities and Albertans trying to access treatment beds, aggregating waitlists and tracking individual recovery goals and outcomes.”

It appears to be more a mechanism to deliver people into addiction treatment than a framework to evaluate if the system is actually working.

It’s unclear how much Albertans are spending for this app, but its 2021 CRA filing indicates that Last Door brought in over $1 million in government funding and over $2.5 million in apparent revenue-generating activity. It seems likely the app falls into the latter sum as a government contract, along with its private treatment fees.

Last thoughts & opportunities to get involved

Meanwhile, while I work to avoid Ganci online, I was delivered this by a friend from a LinkedIn exchange on a Julian Somers’ post that provides a glimpse into Ganci’s hardline stance on evidence-based approaches to managing the toxic drug supply:

Perry Kendall your credibility went down a downtown eastside dirty toilet when you decided to be a drug dealer selling safe supply, you first "fabricated" the science of safe supply under the BCCSU, and then you create a case to be the producer and distributor to sell taxpayer-funded drugs to people based on that science, your slick words don't fool us drug addicts. we know that smell, as your degrees and awards mean nothing. you're a scammer. I'm not afraid of you, or the repercussions of outing Vancouver's poverty pimps. -LinkedIn reply by Giuseppe Ganci to Perry Kendall
Someone should ask Giuseppe Ganci for the evidence on his preferred abstinence-only approach, or see how that’s worked out over 115 years of prohibition.

This Last Door story is best understood against a broader backdrop of how people in such vulnerable situations like addiction treatment become exploited — organizations landing big paydays with a lack of oversight. It echoes the sexual abuse allegations faced by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) 2015 Canadian clinical trials that first surfaced in 2021.

It’s time for better oversight of addiction ‘treatment’. The organizations properly supporting their clients have nothing to hide, but others are causing immeasurable harm in a crisis already rendered devastating through bad policy.

Don’t miss our list of 50 questions every government should be forced to ask their addiction treatment partners and share them with your local representative.

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