2023 Sterling Prize Ceremony and Lecture with Nicole Luongo

Tue Oct 17 2023 at 05:30 pm to 07:30 pm

Online and in-person at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue | Vancouver

SFU Public Square
Publisher/HostSFU Public Square
2023 Sterling Prize Ceremony and Lecture with Nicole Luongo Nicole Lungo will accept the Sterling Prize for Controversy for her work on drug policy and destigmatizing drug use.
About this Event

Nicole Luongo is the 2023 recipient of the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy for her support and commitment to fighting for those who are stigmatized and marginalized for using drugs, as well as her progressive approaches to drug policy, which have drawn criticism.

Luongo is a systems change coordinator with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC), which is in collaboration with researchers in SFU's Faculty of Health Sciences. In this role, Luongo advances education and advocacy supporting a legislative framework that would make all psychoactive drugs legal, safe, and government-regulated.

Additionally, Luongo strongly advocates for the abolition of involuntary institutionalization, which is a practice that permits healthcare providers to detain and admit people to hospital against their wishes. Although this coercive approach to treatment has long been utilized across the country, it has been expanding in some regions to include people who use illegal drugs. Those who criticize involuntary treatment point to its lack of evidence for alleviating distress or bringing about durable change, and they note that institutionalization of any kind correlates with overdose fatalities, especially when involuntary.

“We as a society need to recognize that people are different and just because someone is engaging in 'deviant’ behaviour or behaviour that looks anomalous, it’s not inherently indicative of illness,” she explains. Luongo continues, “But we’ve been trained to bifurcate people into healthy and sick categories and to respond accordingly... What I’d love to see is a world that is built to be accommodating to a diversity of experiences.”

Luongo will be awarded the Sterling Prize and subsequently deliver a lecture on her work and advocacy alongside guest speakers on Tuesday, October 17 at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s Asia Pacific Hall in Vancouver.

This event is free and open to all. Beginning at 5:30 PM, there will be a reception and the formal event will start at 6:00 pm. Please join us for snacks and refreshments!

About the Sterling Prize

The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy was first awarded in 1993 and remains committed to recognizing work that provokes and contributes to the understanding of controversy, while presenting new ways of looking at the world and challenging complacency. The prize recognizes work across disciplines and departments and is awarded annually by the Sterling Prize committee.

Nicole Luongo

Nicole Luongo has a background in medical sociology and previously taught at colleges in Alberta and the Lower Mainland. She has spent a decade working in solidarity with those most impacted by the intersections of drug prohibition, housing-deprivation, and disability (in)justice, including as a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).

Her own personal experience with the mental health system, substance use, and homelessness informs her progressive perspective to drug policy development. Her 2022 memoir, titled The Becoming, details her autobiographical reflections and academic analysis of drug use and the mental health system. Currently, Luongo is a systems change coordinator with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC).

Jane Pulkingham | Moderator

Jane Pulkingham is a Professor of Sociology, currently serving as Senior Advisor (Academic Affairs) in the Office of the Provost and Vice President Academic at Simon Fraser University. From 2016 – 2021 she served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at SFU. Previously, Pulkingham was Associate Dean (2013-2015) of FASS and served as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 2003-2013. She completed her PhD in sociology and social policy at the University of Edinburgh.

Registration disclaimer

As this event is free, and free events routinely have a high number of no-shows, it is our policy to overbook. In case of a full event, registration may not guarantee entry. Seating is limited and will be available to registered attendees on a first-come, first-served basis.


There will be ASL interpreters for in-person and online attendees. Closed captioning in English will be available through the livestream of this event.

The SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue is located at 580 W. Hastings St (enter via Seymour Street courtyard entrance), and is located a brief walk from Waterfront station and numerous bus stops. Bike stalls are available outside the Hastings entrance of SFU Harbour Centre (located across the street). Nearby parking is available at 500 & 400 W. Cordova St. The venue is wheelchair and walker accessible, has elevators and fully accessible washrooms.

Washrooms are located on the lower level, second, third, and fourth floors. The venue has a gender-neutral washroom, available on the second floor (take the hallway to the right). All floors within the building are wheelchair accessible and serviced by elevators. The chairs within AP Hall have armrests, with the seat measuring 50cm (w) x 48cm (d).

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding this event’s accessibility, feel free to connect with us at [email protected]. If you require ASL or other language interpretation please submit this request no later than 3 weeks in advance.

Community guidelines

Our community guidelines are intended to ensure the safety of all guest speakers and event participants, and to foster honest, socially accountable dialogue at our events. Thank you for respecting our community guidelines!

  • Above all, there will be zero tolerance for those who promote violence or discrimination against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, or disability. Anyone who incites harm towards other participants (whether through chat, video, audio or otherwise) will be removed at the discretion of our technical team and moderator.
  • Don’t assume pronouns/gender/knowledge based on someone’s name or appearance. Please refer to people using the usernames and/or pronouns they provide.
  • Take space, make space: share your perspective, and make space for other voices to be heard too. Recognize that we are all here to learn.
  • Practice self-care in whatever way you need to. If you need to get up or take a break, please do so.

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Event Venue

Online and in-person at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Asia Pacific Hall, Vancouver, Canada


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