Saturday, September 02, 2006


In a just-released press statement (excerpts below) the Canadian government has demonstrated an extraordinary disregard for facts and for common sense. It assesses the Vancouver initiative based on objectives that are not applicable; the site is intended to save lives and reduce morbidity - not cure addiction. Applying the same outcome measures would lead to rejection of all of the the myriad treatments utilized in response to diabetes, cardiac disease, hypertension, etc. - to say nothing of palliative care for the temrinally ill.

Ignored by the Canadian Prime Minister and his team is the scientific evidence that the Vancouver site has in fact achieved its primary objective of saving lives! Government also seems blind to the utter failure - by any and all criteria - of what continues to be the mainstay of its anti-drug strategy: prosecution and incarceration of users. What a tragedy.

News Release September 1, 2006: No new injection sites for addicts

OTTAWA - Initial research has raised new questions that must be
answered before Canada's new government can make an informed decision about the
future of Vancouver's drug injection site or consider requests for any
new injection sites says Federal Health Minister Tony Clement.

"Do safe injection sites contribute to lowering drug use and fighting
addiction? Right now the only thing the research to date has proven
conclusively is drug addicts need more help to get off drugs," Minister
Clement says. "Given the need for more facts, I am unable to approve
the current request to extend the Vancouver site ..."


At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a world that seems to be going forward at least on the calender..why are we so backwords when it comes to that which can improve life.

Governments change..people don't. They have no business dictating what shold or should not happen in the proivate affairs of people. one at all.

And there is nothign more private than addiction.


At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A COMMENT FROM Dr. Dan Small, Director, PHS Community Services Society Dr. Small is on the spot in Vancouver and in an excellent position to interpret the signficance of the Canadian decision regarding the safe injection site. Accordingly, while the interpretation differs from mine (indeed, precisely for that reason), it is posted on the site now for the information of readers (with the permisison of Dr. small).

This is good news in terms of people with addictions that would otherwise be relegated to the shadows of the community. In fairness to politicians, the issues around "harm mininization" are not easy and do not lend themselves easily to common sense narratives that reside in the middle ground of opinion poll driven politics that all parties jostle to occupy. For now, the PM and Health Minister have made the right choice and chosen the path that is based on evidence and humanism.

Of course, we'll have to do some continued public and political education about the purpose of public health initiatives in the continuum. For example, the SIF is not predominantly designed to address crime anymore than the oncology department at the BC Cancer Agency is meant to address crime. Medical oncologists deal with the chemotherapy and cancer while police deal with the crime. Similarly, we wouldn't evaluate a police initiative in terms of its impact on cholesterol levels in the wider population.

In the long run, in Canada, we now need to move into a position where we can permanently go beyond the politicization of healthcare issues like addiction so that politicians do not have the opportunity to contemplate "kicking some junkies" for a few cheap votes. For this, I think that we need to see enshrine some fundamental changes in the law as it pertains to addiction. Strangely, healthcare is not a fundamental right in law although it is in the hearts of Canadians. We need to seek legal means to establish addiction as a healthcare issue.

In terms of other regions of the country (like Victoria, Toronto, Montreal), we need to encourage communities to have the courage work from the ground up to establish supervised injection facilities. We can't rely on the position papers, processes and committees of "policy makers" to see public health initiatives like heroin treatment, stimulant maintenance, supervised inhalation facilities, supervised injection facilities, low threshold and community based treatment. Policy makers and politicians tend to react rather than act in areas of controversy. For example, if Victoria truly wants a supervised injection facility (or consumption room), then they need to open one. This involves finding a place, putting in the application, obtaining legal advice getting the municipal permitting in place and then open one.

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minister Clement has deferred the decision on the Vancouver application to December 31st, 2007, during which time additional studies will be conducted into how supervised injection sites affect crime, prevention and treatment. Insite operations will continue during this review.


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