Mr. Premier, I realize you’re in Beijing at the moment, enjoying the Olympics. How nice for you!
I was going to use this time to generally review some of the major decisions that your government has imposed on the province over the past few years, but there was a part of me that wanted to give you a bit of a break. It is summer after all, and you’ve been fairly low key over the past few weeks, and everybody deserves a summer vacation. (Even some of those people who are making only $6.00 per hour as a starting hourly rate thanks to your “training wage” gift to businesses in BC.)
So, in that spirit I looked for something that your government has done that I could actually compliment you on, and I thought of your support of the safe injection site in Vancouver. This issue was recently brought to our attention again following the a BC Supreme Court that defined Insite as a health care facility and those who utilize it as people who require health care.
Now in spite of this thoughtful and science-based decision by the BC Court, the Federal Government, via the Minister of Health, the Honourable Tony Clement, has challenged this decision of the BC Supreme Court in the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court of Canada. They want to close down this den of iniquity, regardless of the research that proves it works; regardless of the position held by more than a dozen doctors, including the heads of neurology, critical care and infectious diseases at UBC who wrote to Harper last October to say the Insite clinic in Vancouver’s downtown eastside is a success and should remain open; and despite 25 studies, published in leading medical journals, showing that it keeps health-care and law-enforcement budgets down while minimizing harm to addicts; Mr. Clement and his leader, the Honourable Stephen Harper, seem to be of the firm belief that Insite is bad, nasty, not nice and just not okay. (Likely immoral too, but we’re not sure about that one yet.)
Now on August 6, Mr. Clement attended the World Health Organization’s seventeenth International AIDS Conference in Mexico in which he embarrassed Canada, the WHO and more or less the rest of the planet when he described Vancouver’s safe injection site as a “form of harm addition.,”. This in opposition to the WHO’s position that sees safe injection sites as a way to fight AIDS and other communicable diseases. Apparently Tony thinks that “a safe environment with the aim of reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable of injecting drug users” is bad and he seems to think that “they should be arrested and prosecuted”.
Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, was clear in his backing of harm-reduction measures, including safe injection sites. “It is high time every country in the world resolutely embraced the full spectrum of harm reduction among injecting drug users. Not doing so will only perpetuate the spread of HIV,” he said.
Insite opened as a pilot project in 2003 under a special exemption from federal drug laws, but Ottawa (under the Harper government) had refused to say whether it would extend the exemption when it expired in June/08. Before the deadline arrived, the BC Supreme Court ruled that parts of federal drug laws related to trafficking and possession are unconstitutional and gave the government a year to rewrite them. Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield said laws that prevent people suffering from the disease of addiction from accessing such a service infringe on their right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Apparently Mr. Clement, unsupported by medical or scientific fact, but bolstered by conviction has set out to ensure that people suffer the consequences by not condoning their continued drug use. Abeeda Kamarulzaman, head professor of infectious diseases at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur said that “harm reduction measures such as needle exchange, methadone treatment and safe injection sites have all been shown as beneficial in slowing the spread of HIV-AIDS.” Dr. Kamarulzaman said: “We need to stop arguing about the merits of harm reduction and just do it.” Apparently, Mr. Clement disagrees with her medical insight, and is secure in his belief that drug users just need to see that what they’re doing is illegal and a good dose of criminal code punishment will make it all better.
Yeah, that’ll work. Hey Gord, give Tony a call would you please. He’ll listen to you. After all you’re both Liberal, er, umm, Conservative, er…let me see, um Conservaliberal??
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