Pubdate: Wed, 05 Mar 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Insite)


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

Speaking just ahead of the release today of the agency's annual 
report, Dr. Philip Emafo signalled the federal government could be 
doing more to make sure all parts of Canada are respecting the agreements.

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

But local health groups running them say the programs aim at helping 
drug abusers kick the habit, or at least not become any sicker. 
They've pushed to keep them operational despite successive INCB calls 
for their closure.

"It cannot go on forever," Emafo said from Vienna, where he serves as 
INCB 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 so-called "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 were under way.

The crack kits typically include a rubber mouthpiece so that the drug 
abuser does not burn his or her mouth and risk infection, as well as 
"push sticks" to prepare the drug for consumption.

But the INCB report says the kits' distribution contravenes an 
article in the 1988 UN anti-drug trafficking convention Canada has signed.

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

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

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