Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Erin Dej

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Lavoie

Advisor Role

Second Reader


Women’s erasure from discourses pertaining to substance use and safe consumption sites (SCSs) means harm reduction efforts are developed through the male lens. This research seeks to discover why women do (or do not) access SCSs so as to determine if and how SCSs address the unique gendered needs of women who use illicit substances. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 14 women-identified individuals who use illicit substances. Participants were recruited from a non-profit organization that offers harm reduction, but is not itself a SCS in order to capture a full range of perspectives on the SCS in their community. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically using a grounded theory approach. The analytic insights were divided into two overarching themes. I examine the structural factors which sustain gender inequity - including the feminization of poverty, violence against women, and structural stigma – and heavily impact the daily experiences of poor and marginalized women who use illicit substances, so as to grasp a thorough understanding of the broader gendered issues encompassing the lives of women who use illicit substances. These insights provided context to analyze the SCS to determine if women’s needs were being met. Several policies impede women’s access to SCSs as well as diminish the site’s appeal, such as the hours of operation, prohibiting inhalation and assisted injections, and a lack of peer workers. Findings from this research indicate that women-identified people desire policy and program changes that provide a more inclusive space to better meet their gendered needs. Until a widely accessible safe supply is available, SCSs remain the foremost solution to the opioid crisis and thus must strive to meet the needs of women who use illicit substances.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season