Last Door's moment of reckoning

The abstinence-only recovery centre that harboured an alleged abuser for a decade has an office in Calgary, a lucrative contract with the UCP and local nonprofit sponsors. Alberta should cut ties.

Last Door's moment of reckoning
Last Door’s Giuseppe Ganci at Clean Sober Proud (annual Pride Day event hosted by Last Door). Photo from Last Door.

Note, June 12: A statement by Last Door released June 12 disputes the following claims: 1) the original Facebook post bringing abuse allegations to light occurred on December 17, 2022 (this was corrected in a CBC article to January 19, 2023, and this is reflected in the second line of the current piece) and 2) that two members of senior management attempted to silence a sexual assault report (this claim has not been retracted by media). Other claims were made in Last Door’s statement that are worth closer examination - I may get to these in an upcoming post.

There’s a lot going on here, so let’s begin with a recap.

In January, a Facebook group grew out of a whisper network in New Westminster, BC that centred on an employee named Adam Haber at Last Door Recovery Society. Last Door is an abstinence-based men-only facility that routinely partners up with Westminster House, a women-only facility nearby.

In early February, the Vancouver Sun broke a story about this Facebook group, alleging multiple sexual assaults by Adam Haber, who was employed in several different roles at the facility since his time as a client at Last Door in 2010. Most recently, he was a physical trainer.

Through much of this 13-year period, Haber is alleged to have assaulted women attending Westminster House for addiction support. The operational and geographic proximity of Westminster House and Last Door is suspected to have played a key role in providing him access to vulnerable people at Westminster House.

“The two facilities are separately owned and operated but share a "close working relationship," raise funds together and have clients attend the same community-based support meetings.” From CBC News

On May 30, Greg Bowman of City News Vancouver reported that Haber was arrested and charged on three counts of sexual assault by New Westminster Police. The NWPD revealed that so far, eleven women have come forward with accusations and they are urging others affected to come forward.

This week’s reporting by CBC Vancouver has revealed some new facts.

New allegations surface

On June 7, CBC’s Moira Wyton reported that Westminster House knew of at least three sexual assault allegations by Haber but did nothing about them. His predatory activities were an “open secret” at both Westminster House and Last Door.

In response to this story, former client of Westminster House Nicole Luongo said this in a Twitter thread:

“[Westminster House] is the treatment centre where I was: told to pray away my bipolar disorder; forced to write with my non-dominant hand b/c the words I used were ‘too big’; attended a sex toy exhibition in lingerie as a representative of Last Door (??!); and ultimately almost died.”

On June 8, Wyton followed up this reporting by detailing how Last Door knew of the assault allegations and Facebook group over a month before they brought any information to the police.

It was also revealed that Last Door senior leadership attempted to silence the accusers by deleting Facebook posts, reporting other posts for bullying, and directly contacting at least one group’s organizers. Last Door leadership highlighted for this behaviour include Executive Director Jared Nilsson and Director of Community Development Giuseppe Ganci.

Ganci is also Chair of Recovery Capital Conference of Canada, which runs Alberta Recovery Conference, among other events. The Conference website lists — presumably Ganci’s Last Door email — as its primary contact.

Alberta Recovery Conference web page showing as primary contact

Why this matters in Alberta

“Bullying” is the same language Giuseppe Ganci used when he phoned staff at AAWEAR, Alberta’s main advocacy organization for people who use drugs, in February after the organization’s Twitter account amplified a tweet questioning Alberta Recovery Conference.

During this call, Ganci worked to gaslight AAWEAR staff about the allegations at Last Door. He urged them to remove me from AAWEAR’s Board of Directors, where I’ve served as Treasurer in a volunteer capacity for nearly two years.

Finally, he uninvited AAWEAR from the conference, revoking the tickets they’d been issued. Not bad for a conference that claims to centre lived experience.

In addition to its recruitment office in downtown Calgary, Last Door has gained a critical foothold in Alberta through the Alberta Recovery Conference. The sponsors for the Conference offer a look into how power structures in Alberta drug policy play out: the Alberta Government, Alberta Health Services, and Calgary Homeless Foundation are listed as top sponsors. Another, Edgewood Health Network (EHN Canada), holds tens of millions in funding to open the first of six “therapeutic communities” for abstinence-oriented addiction care. The Red Deer facility has been ‘set to open’ since November 2022.

The Canadian Addiction Councillors Certification Federation is another top sponsor. Marshall Smith, the Premier’s chief of staff and former Director at Cedars in Cobble Hill (another top sponsor), served as President of the CACCF from December 2018 to May 2019.

Sponsors of the Alberta Recovery Conference chaired by Last Door’s Giuseppe Ganci. Red arrows: the two New Westminster recovery organizations embroiled in sexual assault allegations. Blue arrows: publicly funded organizations sponsoring Alberta Recovery Conference. Black arrow: holding contracts with provincial governments. Yellow arrow: provincially funded to open new recovery centres in Alberta.

In 2021, Last Door received a sole-source contract from the Alberta Government valued at a whopping $1,227,000 to launch My Recovery Plan. This app is designed to connect users seeking addiction treatment with appropriate support, although the UCP have presented it as a means to evaluate how these recovery facilities help minimize drug poisoning. (It will serve no such function.)

Recently, the UCP increased this funding despite Last Door showing almost no progress on deploying yet another largely useless app. Perhaps this was reward for Last Door’s involvement with a baseless moral panic around safe opioid supply in Vancouver. Maybe it was to encourage further support of Aaron Gunn’s career in moral panic-driving poverty porn.

These moral panics have worked their way to the top levels of Canadian conservative discourse through endless National Post columns, hours-long Youtube videos and, of course, House of Commons gotcha moments. We are experiencing the backlash phase of the Liberal Party’s timid safe supply deployment, while all available data indicate outstanding outcomes for communities.

Last Door and Recovery Conference have been a key engine of this backlash. Presumably through Giuseppe Ganci, Last Door and the Recovery Conference speak with one voice:

The two organizations can be indistinguishable online. Alberta Recovery Conference is run by Recovery Capital Conference of Canada, which is chaired by Last Door’s Giuseppe Ganci.

We knew we’d catch flak when we protested outside the Alberta Recovery Conference in February. Our purpose was well documented but certain right-wing pundits took it upon themselves to twist our message to fit a narrative that abstinence-only recovery is being victimized.

This is nonsense. Our demands are the same as they should be for all programs using public dollars: accountability and transparency. And we know that the same structural gaps are giving rise to similar outcomes in Alberta: sexual assault of people at their most vulnerable.

Last Door is taking millions from Alberta’s public funding pool under the guise of evaluating our addiction recovery systems. For Last Door to be embroiled in sexual assault allegations with undertones of bullying, manipulation and organizational opacity should be a sure enough reason for its enablers — the Alberta Government, AHS, CACCF and Calgary Homeless Foundation at the very least — to cut ties.

Let them know by contacting:

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