When struggling to support communities who are shoved to the sidelines, our privilege can be a powerful support. I have taken on the difficult task of attempting to correct an imbalance in the plant medicine community by submitting this open letter to the board of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Canada because of a troubling narrative. As an outsider, there are ways to effectively support a community in crisis and there are ways to disrupt and potentially (likely) harm that community. This is a step taken to minimize that harm. A calling out is ideally a calling in, to repair, reconciliation, community, and growth. That can only be done through accountability and a rigorous commitment to transformation. This letter, though difficult to write, is a step in that direction.
Open Letter to MAPS Canada Board of Directors
Dear MAPS Canada Board of Directors, March 31, 2021
I’m writing this open letter to address significant concerns regarding a member of what is often referred to as the “psychedelic community.” I am a longtime frontline harm reduction worker and community member in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), as well as a former MAPS Canada volunteer. I am a first-hand witness and responder to the significant impact of the current overdose crisis in my community and have grieved the losses of many friends and loved ones. I have been involved in reversing over 1,000 overdoses and have trained many people who have exceeded that number. I have advocated and supported efforts to establish supervised consumption sites and access to safe supply in multiple communities, including Vancouver. I have made great efforts to hold the grief of not only myself but many others in this community. During this time, I have benefited greatly from the impact of plant medicine knowledge and experience in my life and credit it with helping to maintain my capacity to engage in frontline work for such a significant length of time. From this perspective, and despite broader concerns with numerous people and corporate entities, the intent of this letter is to focus attention on the safety and ethical concerns of MAPS Canada board member Trevor Millar. His behaviour has negatively impacted members of the DTES community, as well as the psychedelic communities across Canada and beyond.
For many years now, Trevor has consistently misrepresented his work in the DTES, repeating a story about his 10-year (sometimes referring to it as a 20-year) networking and research project at conferences, in print, on podcasts, and in films and videos. The list of media appearances by Trevor promoting this project is long, yet has not produced any substantive data or results. I initially encountered Trevor as an ally and friend; he approached me wanting to collaborate on the goal of reducing barriers to access plant medicine as a part of the healing journey for DTES residents. This has turned out to be an ambitious drive by him to overtake the narrative of this community, by misrepresenting himself as an authority and responder to a crisis that has seen so many lives lost and altered by exposure to trauma, grief, and neglect, for his own gain. This is an unconscionable ambition in the face of so much suffering.
Exploiting a deadly crisis through a false personal narrative and co-opting a community’s grief for his own monetary, personal, and professional benefit is personally offensive to me and highly unprofessional. Additionally, Trevor references a number of pro bono ibogaine treatments his former company, Liberty Root Therapy Ltd., provided for DTES residents, yet there is only evidence of a single resident having ever been treated. Because of these factors and countless others, I have no confidence in Trevor’s ability to ethically and safely serve the psychedelic community in a leadership capacity. In fact, I would assert that his involvement with any vulnerable population, whether it be a community in severe crisis like the DTES, or people in a therapeutic relationship (involving plant medicine or not), cannot be considered safe.
In addition to misrepresenting his work and experience in the DTES, Trevor has posted transphobic, misogynistic, and Islamophobic statements on his social media channels, most recently promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories. This harmful, inflammatory content was brought to the attention of MAPS Canada leadership, but was essentially ignored. That Trevor continues to hold a position of leadership in a national organization that purports to be the
steward of entheogens and plant medicines for all Canadians, after spreading these views in public and private arenas–without consequences–casts a dim light on the entire MAPS Canada board. It also brings the board’s very integrity and ethics into question. That the board did not view Trevor’s continued involvement as problematic, and even thought it appropriate to have Trevor join the Diversity Committee after his racist and other discriminatory views were publicly documented, further demonstrates the board’s grave lack of judgment.
For these reasons, I demand that Trevor Millar immediately:
• Step down from his board position with MAPS Canada.
• Acknowledge that he has misrepresented his work and experience in the DTES and that
any participation in that community did not consist of any formal nor clinical paid training,
research, or supervision.
• Make an adequate and formal apology acknowledging the significant efforts of the harm
reduction response made by so many frontline workers directly affected by the current
compounding public health crises.
• Publicly declare he will no longer claim to have served or be associated with any future
efforts to serve in the DTES community.
• Recuse himself from any positions involving training or consulting as it relates to
psychedelics, especially as related to vulnerable communities such as the DTES, including proposed research trials and the implementation of clinical services. This is necessary in order to distance himself from any benefit derived from his lengthy false narrative.
• Make any necessary reparations to the community and his victims with the help of independent experts in restorative justice and to the satisfaction of those affected (this writer included).
MAPS Canada is considered a leader in the psychedelic community. Its goal of leading public policy initiatives regarding psychedelics means that it has the power to help or harm countless people through its actions.
Therefore, I am asking the board to immediately take the following actions:
• Stop the current Executive Director search until the issues regarding Trevor Millar have been sufficiently dealt with, thus ensuring he does not impact the hiring process.
• Become fully transparent in MAPS Canada’s internal hiring processes, including full disclosure of all board members’ conflicts of interests with private and corporate interests, as well as all other avenues of personal or professional gain.
• Alert all entities where Trevor has gained influence through his false narrative regarding the significant harm of his misrepresentation. This includes the Canadian Psychedelic Association (CPA), ATMA Journey Centers Inc., NeonMind Biosciences Inc., the Catalyst Summit psychedelic conference, and any others that may not have yet been publicly disclosed.
It is known by many that concerns related to Trevor’s lack of credentials, harmful personal beliefs (racism, misogyny, transphobia, Islamophobia, COVID-conspiracies), unethical and unsafe provision of underground psychedelic therapy, as well as his misrepresented role in the DTES, have been raised to both the MAPS Canada ED and board members over the years without appropriate action being taken. For this reason, it must be stated that I and many others have lost confidence in the entire board. If MAPS Canada wants to lead the expansion of plant medicine and psychedelic therapies, then confidence in the organization needs to be restored, with any and all conflicts of interest disclosed, and unethical persons purged from the organization.
Writing a letter like this is not done with any delight on my part. There are ways all of us can leverage the places of privilege we inevitably find ourselves in; Trevor’s actions, however, are an example of how our privilege can increase the harm in communities that need effective allies. I look forward to a transparent and transformative outcome to this conversation.
Sincerely, Ronnie Grigg
MAPS Canada Board Members & ED:
• Trevor Millar
• Gillian Maxwell
• Colleen Fish
• Dr. Dinesh Bhayana, MD
• Eesmyal Santos-Brault
• Mike Zaremba
• Mark Haden
• Rick Doblin, MAPS USA Founder & ED, MAPS Canada Board
• Amy Emerson, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation
If you would like to add your name in solidarity with this open letter please click on this link. Thank you for your support.