Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jan 2006
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw, with files from Malcolm Curtis
Bookmark: (Safe Injecting Rooms)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


The future of a safe injection site for drug addicts in Victoria 
would be threatened by a Conservative government's "scary" attitude 
against harm reduction, says Liberal senator and former Vancouver 
mayor Larry Campbell.

In Victoria to campaign for Liberal candidates Thursday, Campbell 
said a vote for Stephen Harper's party is a vote for the American 
practice of jailing drug users.

"The Conservative way would be to simply put people in jail," said 
Campbell. "In Harper's world if you use drugs you're a bad person. In 
my world you're suffering from a medical disease and should be treated."

Campbell opened North America's first legal safe injection site in 
Vancouver in 2003. The move drew vocal opposition from the United 
States, a country that has filled its jails with drug users during 
its war on drugs, said Campbell.

"The citizens have to realize if you are voting for the Harper 
Conservatives, effectively you're saying 'we like the way things are 
south of the border,'" he said during an interview in the office of 
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Liberal candidate Keith Martin.

The sites would provide clean equipment, supervision and treatment 
options for users as they inject drugs such as heroin, cocaine and 
morphine. Opponents argue the facilities condone drug use.

Victoria mayor Alan Lowe has said the city will move toward its own 
site this year to solve its public drug-use problems.

But the federal government must grant a key exemption from the 
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for a city to legally run a safe 
injection site.

The future of such exemptions appears to lie in the outcome of the 
federal election. The Liberals have promised to expand the safe 
injection program to other cities. The Conservatives have said they 
won't spend money on drug use.

Robin Baird, Victoria Conservative candidate, said he had "no sense 
of a groundswell of support" for a safe injection site in the city.

However, he said he would not be governed by Harper's clear-cut 
opposition to the sites.

"I believe in saying what's right for the community, no matter what 
the leader says," he said.

Denise Savoie, NDP candidate for Victoria, said the Conservative 
approach shows the party is wrong on the issues.

Vancouver's four-pillars harm reduction policy -- treatment, 
prevention, enforcement and housing -- which culminated in a safe 
injection site in 2003, helped calm the "disorder" of drug use that 
Campbell said he now sees in Victoria.

"You get less disorder, people treated, a drop in your population in 
prison, a drop in HIV, a drop in hepatitis [and] a drop in deaths," 
said Campbell. "What's not to like about this?"

The possibility a Conservative government would oppose such sites 
"absolutely scares me," said Campbell.

Today, Campbell will tour the new temporary location for the Open 
Door drop-in centre at 711 Johnson St. with Lowe and local Liberal candidates.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom