Pubdate: Sat, 25 May 2002
Source: Maple Ridge News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Maple Ridge News
Author: Tom Fletcher
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Beat cops on East Hastings, a senior RCMP drug officer who has studied 
European drug experiments, and an ex-junkie who runs successful treatment 
programs all agree.

Needle exchange programs, injection sites and other "harm reduction" 
strategies that cater to addicts are a failure.

Vancouver Police constables Al Arsenault and Toby Hinton, whose video 
Through a Blue Lens brought the "Pain and Hastings" underworld to national 
attention, brought their latest mean-streets movie, Flipping the World, to 
Maple Ridge Wednesday. They were part of a drug abuse prevention forum 
organized by the two local Rotary Clubs. Other guests included Staff Sgt. 
Chuck Doucette, provincial drug coordinator for the RCMP's E Division 
headquarters, and Billy Weselowski of Innervisions treatment centres.

Those with day-to-day experience of the carnage caused by heroin, cocaine 
and speed addiction were unanimous in condemning any program that 
facilitates drug use with equipment, supervised sites or providing the 
drugs themselves.

In a lively presentation that had the audience laughing and clapping one 
moment and gasping at candid images of desperate junkies the next, speakers 
debunked the suggestion that Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside is 
made better by harm reduction efforts. Arsenault noted that his and 
Hinton's views were personal, and they were not speaking on behalf of the 
Vancouver Police.

Police say "safe injection site" is a misnomer, because they are anything 
but safe as long as addicts are still using street drugs.

"They need the cure, not the poison," Weselowski said. "Is that so hard to 

Doucette said proponents of the needle exchange don't even try to argue 
they are lowering HIV and Hepatitis C infection rates, preferring to say 
rates would be even higher without a steady supply of clean needles. Yet 
the infection rate on the Downtown Eastside is now among the highest in any 
North American community.

Doucette said he visited the supervised injection site experiment in 
Frankfurt, Germany, which has been held up as a model of progressive, 
modern harm reduction.

"You would swear you were walking in the Downtown Eastside," Doucette said, 
adding that Frankfurt did manage a reduction in overdose deaths, but that 
was more likely from pushing addicts out of drug-hangout parks.

Councillor Craig Speirs, a panelist, found little support for his 
suggestion that marijuana should be decriminalized. Experts agreed that the 
best strategies are those that keep young people away from drugs, and 
provide effective intervention for addicts.
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