Pubdate: Tue, 29 Aug 2006
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2006, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rod Mickleburgh
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


More Research Needed Into Whether Facilities Increase Demand For 
Drugs, Mounties Say

VANCOUVER -- The RCMP, which may play a key role in deciding the fate 
of the city's supervised heroin injection site, said yesterday it is 
dubious about the merits of such sites.

In a statement issued from Ottawa to counteract some media reports 
that the RCMP is sympathetic to the site's continued operation, the 
Mounties said they are opposed to any expansion of so-called 
supervised injection sites.

"We do have some concerns," said media spokeswoman Nathalie 
Deschenes. "We strongly believe that more research is needed into 
whether these sites increase the demand for drugs in order for us to 
support their expansion."

The fate of Vancouver's landmark facility, which allows heroin 
addicts to inject their drugs in clean surroundings supervised by 
medically trained staff, hangs on an imminent decision by the federal 
Conservative government.

A three-year government decree exempting addicts using the centre, 
known as Insite, from the country's drug laws while they are on site 
runs out Sept. 12.

With just two weeks to go, the Tories are still mum on whether they 
will renew the exemption. Without it, Insite will be forced to close, 
prompting an all-out campaign by the site's many proponents to keep 
the doors open.

Several months ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would 
consult the RCMP before deciding what to do.

The RCMP recently commissioned two reports by B.C. criminologists on 
the impact of the Vancouver site and similar facilities in Europe. 
Both reports were positive.

But yesterday's RCMP statement made clear that the reports do not 
reflect the view of Canada's national police force.

"The [reports are] the opinions of the authors, and not of the RCMP," 
the unsigned press release said.

"The RCMP does not support legalization of any currently illicit 
substances, or any initiatives that encourage their use.

"Until research is completed, we oppose the expansion of the SIS 
[supervised injection site] pilot project in Vancouver."

Ms. Deschenes said the RCMP is continuing to discuss its concerns 
with the government, while taking no public position on whether the 
Vancouver pilot project should stay open.

"So far, that site is there. This is what it is, and we live with it."

The RCMP's position is at odds with the views of Vancouver Police 
Chief Jamie Graham, who is among those supporting Insite's continued operation.

In a letter to Health Canada, Chief Graham said that city police have 
been working closely with local health authorities "to ensure that 
both enforcement and health related goals are addressed in this project.

"We plan on continuing in the spirit of co-operation to create a more 
safe and healthy community," the police chief wrote, as he urged a 
further three-year exemption for the injection site.

So far, despite more than 400 recorded drug overdoses by Insite users 
while shooting up at the facility, not one has been fatal.

Other studies have found no increase in drug usage among heroin 
addicts using the site, and a slight increase in the number seeking 
to kick their habit.

Mark Townsend of the Portland Hotel Society, which operates the 
injection site, said he finds it strange that the RCMP would 
commission reports on Insite and similar centres elsewhere, yet not 
embrace their findings.

"And these reports were written by criminologists, not health people. 
I think it's somewhat embarrassing for the RCMP," Mr. Townsend said.

Before the site opened, one of its most vociferous opponents was 
Abbotsford Conservative MP Randy White, who strongly denounced the 
idea of turning a blind eye to illegal drug use.

However, Mr. White's Conservative successor in the riding, Ed Fast, 
has a different view.

While stressing that the final decision is up to cabinet, Mr. Fast 
told the Abbotsford News recently that he is confident scientific 
research will outweigh any possible moral objections to the 
supervised injection site.

"[They] should not be the basis on which we make decisions with 
respect to a health issue," Mr. Fast said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman