Pubdate: Thu, 7 Feb 2008
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Georgia Straight
Author: Matthew Burrows
Cited: Beyond Prohibition Coalition
Cited: Centre for Addictions Research of BC
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Insite)


Every week for the next 52 weeks, Susan Boyd will be "educating" 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper about harm reduction and drug 
regulation by sending him a letter.

Vancouver-based Boyd is an associate professor in the studies in 
policy and practice program and a senior research fellow at the 
Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., both at the University of 
Victoria. She told the Georgia Straight she has been "interested in 
drug policy for almost 20 years" and is part of the Vancouver-based 
Beyond Prohibition Coalition.

Proponents of harm reduction claim it mitigates the potential dangers 
and health risks associated with drug use and does not focus time and 
effort on incarceration and criminalization.

"I became much more interested in educating him this past year, with 
the 2007 throne speech, 2007 budget, and his bill to bring about 
mandatory minimums for drug offences and trafficking," Boyd said by 
phone. "So all of these issues brought together my idea that I should 
do something a little more public in relation to education and protest."

Boyd is posting each of the 52 letters-the first one went out 
February 3-on For this on-line idea, Boyd 
gives credit to Spanish-born Canadian Yann Martel, author of The Life 
of Pi. Martel has been sending Harper a secondhand book every two 
weeks to promote appreciation of the arts.

Former three-term Vancouver mayor Philip Owen, also listed in the 
ranks of Boyd's coalition, said Harper "doesn't listen" on this issue.

"The words harm reduction, they simply don't understand them," Owen 
said by phone. "They have prevention, treatment, and enforcement. 
They have $64 million for those three pillars and nothing about harm 
reduction. And that is spread over two years right across the 
country, so that they can say, 'Look, we just funded prevention, 
treatment, and harm reduction.' "

Boyd noted that in 2002, then-political neophyte Larry Campbell won 
the Vancouver mayoral race on a drug platform that promised to carry 
on the work of Owen, city drug-policy coordinator Donald MacPherson, 
and the Four Pillars Coalition, who pushed for Insite-North America's 
first supervised injection site.

"It was an election issue here in Vancouver, and I think it could be 
and needs to be again," she said. "I think it would be worthwhile to 
think about the larger issues connected to drug policy in relation to 
our tax dollars going towards police initiatives and prohibition. 
It's very expensive. We would do better to look at this issue, have a 
legal and regulated market, and put more funding into prevention, 
education, and initiatives that really speak to local issues as well, 
instead of constantly supporting a failed policy that becomes more 
and more expensive."

Boyd asserted that if drugs were legally regulated, "we would not 
have the type of drug-trade violence that we have experienced since 
prohibition began."

Added Owen: "But the [U.S.] federal government in Washington has 
blinkers on, and Harper has to phone Washington to get permission to 
go to the bathroom, I think. He won't make a move without talking to 
George Bush-not on Afghanistan or anything. But the media and the 
public agree with me, because it [harm reduction] is the right thing to do."

The Web site of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada dismisses harm 
reduction as a philosophy that is "fatalistic and faulty at its 
core". Harper thanked the network for participating in discussions 
when he announced his National Anti-Drug Strategy in October.

Owen said he is "pissed off" by this line of thinking.

Harper and Health Minister Tony Clement did not respond to Straight 
requests for an interview. Chuck Doucette, vice-president of the 
Ottawa-based Drug Prevention Network of Canada, did not return a call 
by deadline. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake