Pubdate: Thu, 11 Nov 2010
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts


Handing out needles from a Pandora Avenue pharmacy, even in the 
so-called "no-go zone," falls well within provincial government policy, 
B.C.'s chief medical officer said yesterday.

Dr. Perry Kendall said the province, working through the B.C. Centre for 
Disease Control, provides needles and supports their distribution to 
drug users to reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.

"We do provide harm-reduction supplies. And we do encourage the 
establishment of needle exchanges and other services where they are 
needed. And we do encourage pharmacists to be part of the solution," 
said Kendall.

"Is there a problem here [on Pandora Avenue] with public order or public 
danger -- I don't know," he said. "I think it might be a really good 
idea for someone to sit down with the police and the local residents and 
say, 'What are your real concerns here?'"

At a meeting this week of the Victoria Police Board, a report on street 
disorder pointed to the Pandora Pharmacy, at 922 Pandora Ave., as a 
source of free needles for drug users.

Police said in the report they have been dealing with an increase in 
complaints of people shooting up on the street and littering the streets 
with their used needles since the pharmacy started distributing needles.

Staff at the pharmacy, which also operates as a methadone clinic, 
refused to comment yesterday.

Officials with the Vancouver Island Health Authority said the pharmacy 
is acting on its own. But VIHA has been aware it has been passing out 
needles for about six months.

Passing out needles in that particular block violates a code of conduct 
that has established what has become popularly known as a "no-go zone" 
in the area.

Driven by concerns of local residents, businesses and nearby agencies 
such as St. Andrew's Elementary School, the exclusion zone was 
established several years ago with the help of the ad hoc Needle 
Exchange Advisory Committee.

The 900 block of Pandora Avenue has also seen more than its fair share 
of public disorder, with street people pitching tents and camping on the 
boulevard. The city passed a no-camping bylaw last month.

Rev. Al Tysick, executive director of Our Place, a soup kitchen and 
drop-in centre at 919 Pandora Ave., said he thought people have a right 
to be upset that the Pandora Pharmacy is handing out needles.

"Not to be mentioning it and then for us to find out later, it just 
brings non-trust in the community," said Tysick.

"We are all working towards having a safe, clean neighbourhood. It's 
just coming clean with what you are doing," he said.

Barry Hobbis, candidate for city council with campaign headquarters in 
the block, said he is astounded by the extent of blatant drug use on 

"It just seems as if it is acceptable," said Hobbis, a former police 
officer. "From the drug users' point of view, they don't seem to fear."
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