Nova Scotia

Sydney group opens office to help drug users and push for decriminalization

The Cape Breton Association of People Empowering Drug Users, or CAPED, is getting ready to open an office in Sydney next week with funding from Health Canada. The association advocates for drug decriminalization and aims to help people access services.

CAPED is 1 of 5 organizations in Canada qualified to host a secure opioid dispenser

Giulia DiGiorgio says the Cape Breton Association of People Empowering Drug Users has everything it needs to offer safe supply, except a doctor willing to prescribe. (Tom Ayers)

A new organization made up of people who use illicit drugs or have lived experience with that is launching a program to help individuals in Cape Breton who face discrimination in housing, employment or health care due to the stigma of criminalization.

The Cape Breton Association of People Empowering Drug Users, known as CAPED, is getting ready to open an office in Sydney with funding from Health Canada to advocate for decriminalization and help people access the services they need to survive.

Executive director Giulia DiGiorgio said the area needs an organization that speaks for people with lived experience, because she said drug use is a health problem, not a criminal matter.

"Right now, we're in a position where we're being supported to build our capacity to be able to deliver our own services, by us, for us," she said.

"If you don't have your basic needs met, you're stuck in this vicious cycle of poverty and criminalization and it's a revolving door and it's just, you know, that's the problem, not the drugs."

New office on Kings Road

CAPED is launching a program to undo the harm of stigmatisation and criminalization that will include helping individuals find a place to live, a job or whatever they need.

The new office will offer people who use drugs a safe place to get help from people who have lived experience or to get access to phone and computer services, DiGiorgio said.

The types of services available will depend on the needs of people who stop by, she said.

CAPED is also continuing to work on a plan to offer a safe supply of opioids to try and prevent overdose deaths.

DiGiorgio worked out of the Ally Centre of Cape Breton until it moved into a new location on Prince Street in downtown Sydney last week, where it has launched an overdose prevention site.

The Ally Centre of Cape Breton opened Peer Six last week, an overdose prevention site on Prince Street in Sydney. (Ally Centre of Cape Breton/Facebook)

The Ally Centre is working on a safe supply of drugs, but executive director Christine Porter said last week it is using a different model.

CAPED has been approved as one of five organizations in Canada qualified to host a high-tech, secure vending machine that would dispense opioids.

But DiGiorgio said they have so far been unable to find a doctor willing to oversee the project.

Last week, she was in Halifax speaking with others at a symposium on safe supply and said there is support for CAPED's plans.

CAPED officially opens its doors July 14 at 196 Kings Road in Sydney, in behind the Dr. Yavari Medical Centre, with an open house from noon to 4 p.m.


Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at