Queen’s University to host psychedelic summit in May

Psychedelics, such as Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and MDMA (ecstasy) have been studied for their applicable health benefits increasingly over the past five years. Photo by Pretty Drug Things.

Queen’s University will be hosting CATALYST Summit 2022 — one of the largest hybrid in-person and online conferences in Canada dedicated to psychedelic medicine — from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22, 2022, with local and international scientists, researchers, and speakers providing insight into the latest research and findings.

“In Canada, psychedelics and plant medicine are becoming part of the medicine mainstream,” said Cory Firth, Executive Director of the Canadian Psychedelic Association. “As of the last few years, research has been granted to show efficacy, safety, and use of psychedelics to treat debilitating issues including anxiety, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and eating disorders.”

In the last two years, psychedelics have “taken off” in Canada. “It’s an industry that’s already happening.”

David Harder

The summit is produced by Catalyst Presents Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in Alberta. According to Catalyst’s website, proceeds from the event will subsidize the cost of delivering legal psychedelic-assisted therapy to palliative patients, as well as to Canadian military veterans suffering from PTSD.

“Canada is leading the way in terms of openness and receptivity [to] the research. It’s really about making sure we’re doing this in an ethical and safe way,” said David Harder, Catalyst founder and Executive Director.

David Harder is the founder and executive director of Catalyst Presents Foundation and helped organize this year’s CATALYST Summit 2022, a conference about psychedelic medicine to be held in May in Kingston, Ont. Submitted photo

“This is a much more potent, powerful drug that can be used in incredible ways, but it could also be misused. There needs to be caution, harm reduction, and moving forward in locked steps with trials. We believe this needs to be done in proper protocol, proper settings, [and] safe ways of delivery so we don’t end up with a repeat of the 70’s,” Harder added.

In the last two years, Harder said that psychedelics have “taken off” in Canada. “It’s an industry that’s already happening.”

Firth, a conference moderator at the summit, said that “there [will be] world class speakers, experts, influencers, [and] global psychedelic leaders joining in on those few days to lay out the foundation of where we’re at and where we’re headed in Canada and abroad. It’s set to be an incredible event.”

Firth said that one of the most interesting aspects of the conference is the presence of First Nations representatives who will help “to expand on our understanding of the various First Nations communities in Canada and how their healing modalities are inclusive to psychedelic experience or mental health healing.”

Tickets are now available for purchase, with a 50 per cent discount until Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, using KINGSTON50 as the code at https://catalystpresents.ca/

A Psychedelic Experience

Firth described his own struggles with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and the role psychedelics played in his life.

Cory Firth, executive director of the Canadian Psychedelic Association, talked about how psychedelic medicine has helped him overcome mental health struggles. Submitted photo

“I’ve been through a few experiences of my own. I’ve tried everything we have in the traditional Western pharmacology route, tried every therapy you could think of, and it didn’t work for me,” Firth admitted, adding he spent over $100,000 of his own money trying to understand “what caused the pain.”

Then he found a psychedelic plant medicine called ayahuasca (pronounced eye-ah-WAH-ska). “That allowed me to see some clarity, [and I] started to explore different options. You get this mystical experience and you truly see who you are. You get to see what’s really important.”

Firth stressed the importance of integration: the preparation before psychedelic use and the after care to digest the experience during the psychedelic journey. “Not only is the therapist/facilitator important during the ‘trip’ itself, but after.” This process involves journaling, meditation, and breath work that will help the individual embody the experience.

As a result of his psychedelic journey, Firth said, he achieved a more meaningful connection with family and the community, began to experience more joy and happiness in a consistent way, and learned to move through life with calmness.

“That’s life changing for me. Nothing has helped me more in my journey than the use of psychedelic plant medicines in a therapeutic, intentional way, [one that is] driven from the safety and harm reduction point of view, with a focus on integration,” Firth stated, adding that a peer support group has also been beneficial for him.


The CATALYST Summit 2022 conference agenda includes presentations about clinical studies, standards and ethics, and the business of psychedelics, among other topics.
Screenshot by Yona Harvey from the Catalyst Summit website.

Harder described a different scenario when he founded Catalyst. “Five years ago, nothing was legal at that point. The whole landscape has shifted since then.”

The first conference in March 2020 — with 500 attendees — had to immediately change to an online format due to the pandemic. In 2021, they had 750 attendees, and had to pivot again to an online format. “We’re very good at pivoting now, [but] we do believe it will be in person and we will be streaming it as well,” Harder said of this year’s upcoming summit. “Kingston has been so receptive, and the team at Queen’s (University) has been so helpful.”

According to the website, the conference will address five different areas:

“Insight into the latest research and science in psychedelics, presented by many of the world’s leading scientists and researchers”

“A range of perspectives on the therapeutic and medicinal uses and benefits of psychedelics, with an emphasis on addressing mental and emotional health issues”

“Historical context and background of many different psychedelic compounds and elements, including Psilocybin, MDMA, Ketamine, LSD, Ayahuasca, 5Meo-DMT, Iboga and others”

“An overview of current and pending legislative and regulatory changes that are rapidly occurring within Canada and around the world including hearing from Health Canada”

“Exposure to many of Canada’s leading companies and organizations that are building the foundation of Canada’s psychedelic revolution in [2022] and beyond”

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