Pubdate: Wed, 5 Mar 2008
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Steven Edwards, The Ottawa Citizen
Referenced: INCB annual report
Cited: InSite for Community Safety
Bookmark: (Insite)
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


UN Body Says Sites 'Enable' Illicit Use; Flout Treaties

UNITED NATIONS - The head of the United Nations drug control board 
put the federal government on notice yesterday to rein in provincial 
and other health authorities deemed to be flouting international 
treaties aimed at combating illicit drug use.

Speaking just ahead of today's release of the board's annual report, 
Philip Emafo signalled the federal government could do more to make 
sure all parts of Canada respect the agreements.

In the new report, the International Narcotics Control Board calls on 
Canada to ban various community-backed programs that enable illicit drug use.

However, health groups running them say the programs aim to help drug 
abusers kick the habit, or at least not to become any sicker.

They've pushed to keep them operational despite successive the 
board's calls for them to close.

"It cannot go on forever," Mr. Emafo said from Vienna, where he 
serves as board president.

"We want the government of Canada to be in compliance with their 
treaty obligations, but there is an internal problem, and we would 
urge the government of Canada to sort (it) out."

The new report says Canada should end regional handouts of drug 
paraphernalia and close "injection sites" where drug users are 
allowed to consume illicit drugs under supervision.

Specifically mentioned is the "safer crack kit" that the Vancouver 
Island Health Authority was giving away, while Ottawa and Toronto are 
listed as cities where similar distribution programs are under way.

Each crack kit typically includes a rubber mouthpiece so that the 
drug abuser does not burn his or her mouth and risk infection, plus 
"push sticks" to prepare drugs for consumption.

However, the report says the kits' distribution contravenes an 
article in the 1988 UN anti-drug trafficking convention that Canada signed.

The article says governments should not allow trade in drug equipment.

In calling for a ban on drug injection sites, the report is repeating 
a call made last year that mainly focused on the Vancouver facility 
Insite, which bills itself as a "clean, safe environment where users 
can inject their own drugs off the streets."

The board has said the Insite facility contravenes a 1961 treaty 
signed by Canada. It says countries should pass laws ensuring drugs 
are used only for medical or scientific purposes.

The Conservative government has toughened illicit drug laws through 
its National Anti-Drug Strategy, but late last year it extended, 
until June 30, a special exemption from federal drug enforcement laws 
for the Insite facility.

Spokespeople for Health Minister Tony Clement did not respond to 
requests yesterday to react to the report and Mr. Emafo's comments.

In a bid to free itself from even the need for a federal government 
exemption, Insite has appealed to the British Columbia Supreme Court 
to rule it is a health facility that is constitutionally under 
provincial jurisdiction.

In a campaign against the findings, it has also argued that the board 
itself called for a legal opinion from the UN Office on Drugs and 
Crime that found "harm-reduction" programs did not violate the UN treaties.

"It's clear from the legal brief that Insite is in compliance, and 
all it's doing is providing an intake bridge to recovery for users," 
said Nathan Allen, co-ordinator for the Insite For Community Safety campaign. 
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