‘You Need More People Like Me,’ Says Mayor Who’s Known Homelessness and Addiction

The Tyee

On Dec. 3, Dan Carter was sworn in as mayor of Oshawa, a city of about 170,000 people northeast of Toronto. He wore a grey suit and pale silver tie as he dipped his head to accept the chain of office.

It was a long way from his years of addiction and homelessness.

Carter, like many people who experience homelessness, had been through the foster care system. He was adopted at the age of two. In his teen years, he fell into addiction. An undiagnosed learning disability left him functionally illiterate. It wasn’t until his sister convinced him to enter rehab at 31 that he was able to get his life back on track, build a career in broadcasting, as a regional councillor, and now as mayor.

He spoke to The Tyee about how his life experiences have informed his views of politics and what he plans to do to address homelessness in his city.

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Tyee: What were some of the factors that led to your experience of homelessness?

Dan Carter: Addiction was number one. My addiction to drugs and alcohol played a significant role in every action and every impact on my life. I was a severe alcoholic, a drug addict. Basically, I started drinking and taking drugs when I was 13 and I quit when I was 31.

My addiction pushed my family away, my friends away, made me unemployable. I always say that addiction made me mentally, physically, financially, spiritually, bankrupt, in every aspect. And once I was able to get into recovery, and those kinds of things, that’s when I was able to start having a path forward. But addiction was the number one.

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