Pubdate: Wed, 07 Dec 2005
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell, Staff writer
Bookmark: (Safe Injecting Rooms)


Two Vancouver MPs say Conservative leader Stephen Harper's comments 
on drug addiction could mean the city's supervised injection site 
would be scrapped under a Conservative government.

Vancouver-South Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who is also Canada's health 
minister, compared Harper's views on crime to those of U.S. President 
George Bush.

"Here is a man who essentially looks at crime in the way Texans, 
particularly President Bush, would look at crime," Dosanjh told the 
Courier Monday. "It's sort of the Texan hang 'em high, Bush-style 
attitude to crime."

Harper visited the Lower Mainland on the weekend, where he announced 
during a campaign stop in Burnaby the Conservatives' plan to reduce crime.

When asked about his support for Vancouver's supervised injection 
site at 139 East Hastings, Harper reportedly said, "We as a 
government will not use taxpayers' money to fund drug use."

His comments enraged Dosanjh and Vancouver-East NDP MP Libby Davies, 
who sent a letter to Harper expressing her disappointment. Though 
Harper didn't clearly say he would scrap the injection site, Dosanjh 
and Davies, who are seeking re-election, wasted no time in making it 
a campaign issue.

"He actually said that publicly... that's abhorrent, as far as I'm 
concerned. That's absolutely unacceptable," Dosanjh said. "We need to 
have a comprehensive approach to crime, to the root causes of crime 
and then to make sure we do restorative justice, rehabilitate people, 
provide treatment to those that are addicted, provide safe injections 
sites to those that need them and we actually deal with, in a very 
tough fashion, with serious violent offenders."

Added Dosanjh: "That's not how Mr. Harper looks at crime. It's just 
one solution fits all, which is jail 'em all."

In her letter, Davies wrote she was shocked to hear of Harper's 
"ill-informed position on North America's only safe injection site 
which is located in my riding in the Downtown Eastside."

Davies invited Harper to meet with staff at Insite and the facility's 
clients when he returns to Vancouver for another campaign stop. 
Davies noted the injection site has reduced HIV and Hepatitis C 
infections and staff have referred drug users to treatment.

"Community service organizations in [my riding] are national leaders 
in drug treatment and outreach programs," Davies wrote. "They 
understand what you do not-that poverty, addiction and homelessness 
are human problems not criminal problems and won't be solved with 
longer prison terms."

News of Harper's comments didn't sit well with Mayor Sam Sullivan, 
who was sworn in Monday. Sullivan also automatically becomes the 
chair of the Vancouver Police Board.

"I would like to have a long discussion with [Harper] to evaluate 
what are the options, how useful [Insite] has been and maybe to move 
into other more interesting and innovative things that will help so 
that we don't need safe injection sites anymore," he said. "But right 
now we do."

The Courier left messages with the Conservatives' communications 
staff in Ottawa on Monday and Tuesday to clarify Harper's views on 
injection sites. Calls were not returned before yesterday's deadline.

The Conservatives' plan to reduce crime includes mandatory two-year 
prison sentences for drug dealers, importers and producers of more 
than three kilograms of drugs.

Other measures would see a ban on conditional sentences for serious 
drug crimes, scrapping the Liberals' plan to decriminalize marijuana 
and a drug prevention strategy for youth.

The election is Jan. 23.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman