Pubdate: Sat, 28 Dec 2002
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Vancouver Sun
Author: David Reevely, Vancouver Sun
Bookmarks: (Safe Injecting Rooms)


Vancouver Mayor Campbell Says Forced Treatment Won't Work With

Six of 10 Lower Mainland residents support having a safe
drug-injection site in the City of Vancouver, a new poll has found.

But half the supporters are not strongly in favour, the poll conducted
by Ipsos-Reid for The Vancouver Sun reveals, suggesting there could be
problems as more specific plans for a site are made public.

A large majority of those polled believe users of any safe-injection
site should be required to enter a drug treatment program.

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, who has said he hopes to have a
safe-injection site open in the city by March 1, does not support
mandatory treatment.

"The idea of mandatory treatment just doesn't work," Campbell said in
an interview.

"All the evidence shows that addicts will get treatment when they
really feel they need it and not before."

He said forcing drug users into a treatment program would dissuade
some people -- perhaps those who need help most -- from using a
safe-injection site and would be a waste of resources.

Eighty-one per cent of the people polled -- from West Vancouver to
Mission -- said users of any safe-injection site should be required to
enter a drug treatment program. Sixty-five per cent said they
"strongly support" that requirement.

Richard Lee, a prominent critic of safe-injection sites took the
four-fifths support for mandatory treatment programs as a good sign.

"It tells me that people aren't fully behind the idea of making it
easier for people to use drugs," said Lee, chairman of a group of
east-side merchants and others called the Community Alliance. Members
of the group who are prominent in the civic Non-Partisan Association
were criticized last spring for not supporting then-mayor Philip
Owen's four-pillar drug strategy.

Establishing at least one safe-injection site was a major pledge
Campbell made in the fall municipal election. Safe- (or "supervised")
injection sites are a component of the four-pillar strategy. The idea
is to reduce the harm caused by injecting drugs by providing addicts
with a clean environment and clean equipment.

The Ipsos-Reid poll found 32 per cent of those surveyed strongly
support putting at least one safe-injection site in Vancouver. Another
29 per cent somewhat support it, while eight per cent somewhat oppose
the idea, and 26 per cent strongly oppose it.

Ipsos-Reid vice-president Kyle Braid said it didn't surprise him that
half the proposal's supporters are only somewhat in favour.

"I think it goes back to the complexity of the issue," he said.
"People would want to know how it's going to be implemented, and there
are still a lot of decisions to be made. They'll want to see more
definite plans before committing."

Lee said he believes Campbell and his Coalition of Progressive
Electors haven't put all the facts about safe-injection sites on the

"I truly believe that if all the information were known, there would
not be the same level of support," Lee said. He added that he believes
Campbell and COPE are being selective with the facts they have
presented to the public.

Campbell, who said he expects the Vancouver-Richmond Health Board to
submit a proposal to Ottawa for approval of a site as early as next
week, noted that opening a site will require flexibility and change.

"I think it has to be clear that this isn't something that's going to
fall from the sky fully-formed," the mayor said. "As the health board
rolls it out, we'll be seeing what works and what doesn't and making
changes as we go along."

The poll found that most people in Greater Vancouver -- 41 per cent --
want to see multiple safe-injection sites throughout the Lower
Mainland, rather than just one in the Downtown Eastside. Nineteen per
cent want just one, while 13 per cent support having multiple sites in
the neighbourhood near Hastings and Main and 10 per cent want multiple
sites in Vancouver.

"This is a sign that people are realizing that the problem isn't
restricted to one neighbourhood," Campbell said.

He has argued that although drug users congregate in the Downtown
Eastside, they live all over Vancouver and the suburban municipalities
and he says, there should be multiple sites so drug users can have
access to them in their own neighbourhoods.

"We know that the numbers are much higher in the City of Vancouver,
too, so this is a good sign," Campbell said.

Lee said safe-injection sites would only attract addicts into the
neighbourhoods where they are located, and remove drug users' fear of

"There are two victims of addiction," Lee said. "The victim of the
addiction to heroin or cocaine, and the neighbourhoods that are
victims of the crimes addicts commit to pay for their drugs. We must
not forget that."

He said the Netherlands, generally considered a drug-tolerant country,
requires drug addicts who commit multiple crimes (but not, he
conceded, ordinary users of supervised injection sites) to enter drug
treatment programs.

If the time comes to try to place injection sites outside Vancouver,
however, their advocates seem likely to have big fights on their
hands: 50 per cent of the poll respondents outside the City of
Vancouver would support such sites in their own municipalities --
compared to 47 per cent who would oppose them.

The poll found much lower support for two variations in the way a
safe-injection site could operate.

Only 39 per cent of the people surveyed supported placing a minimum
age requirement on using the site, compared to 53 per cent who opposed
the idea.

Asked if addicts should get drugs free so they don't resort to crime
to fund their addictions, 41 per cent favoured the idea while 52 per
cent opposed it -- most of them strongly.

The poll was conducted between Dec. 2 and Dec. 9. It surveyed 500
people in the Lower Mainland and the results are considered accurate
to within 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake