Pubdate: Sun, 06 Nov 2005
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Safe Injecting Rooms)


Mayoral Hopefuls Support Injection Sites But Differ On How To Fulfil Goal

Both of Victoria's highest-profile mayoral rivals support a supervised 
injection site for the city, but differ on how it can be achieved -- and 
how quickly.

"We have to get people to understand that a safe injection site is part of 
a harm-reduction strategy," said Mayor Alan Lowe, referring to treatment, 
prevention, enforcement and housing options.

"It is part of it, but not the whole thing."

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, and former mayor Philip Owen, said Victoria 
needs a political champion to keep pushing the issue until it becomes a 
reality like it did for Vancouver in 2003.

"I think in the past year and a half I have been trying to champion this by 
getting the dialogue going and getting the information sessions going," 
said Lowe.

Owen lost his political party's support and mayor's job by championing a 
Vancouver site in 2002.

Lowe said he would also be willing to sacrifice his job for a supervised 
injection site if he had to, "because I think it's the right thing to do."

However, mayoral candidate Ben Isitt, a socialist who surprised many in 
2002 when he got almost 30 per cent of the votes cast for mayor, said Lowe 
is moving too slow.

"Alan Lowe is attempting to have one foot in each camp," he said.

"On one hand he went on a public fact-finding mission in Europe that I 
support. ... but that fact-finding mission will not have been an effective 
use of taxpayer dollars if there isn't a follow-through in terms of filing 
a permit and building a safe-injection site."

If elected, Isitt said, he would ask council to immediately apply for a 
Health Canada exemption to the Controlled Substances Act -- a crucial step 
that, if approved, would allow users to inject illegal drugs at a future 
consumption site.

"Drug addiction is too serious an issue to delay any longer," said Isitt.

Lowe countered the criticism: "I want to move forward faster, but I think 
that if I go too fast, and if the majority of the public do not support 
this, all the work we have done in the last three years would actually lose 

"There is a time where you have to just go out there and say this is the 
right thing for the community and just do it. And I think that time will 
come probably sometime in the new year, where we will have the support of 
Vancouver Island Health Authority as well as support from the federal 

Both Lowe and Isitt said finding a location could be the biggest challenge. 
Lowe said he wants to consult and collect more data on where a site would 
be best-suited.

Isitt said a downtown location would make the most sense.

Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has said he is willing to expand 
safe-injection sites to other cities. But he added that the public, local 
police, city council, province and health authority would have to agree to 
any site proposal.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom