Pubdate: Fri, 07 Jun 2013
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The London Free Press
Author: Jessica Hume


OTTAWA - Anyone looking to open a facility where drug addicts can use 
illegal substances in a safe environment will find themselves facing 
tough new criteria after the government introduced its Respect for 
Communities Act.

Under the new rules, "safe injection sites" will need to be approved 
by members of the communities they propose to serve.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq made the announcement Thursday, saying 
"strong, local public involvement" needs to be part of the process.

"We believe that the application process needs to be changed to 
create formal opportunities for local voices to be heard and their 
views considered," the minister told reporters.

Among the new criteria are consultations with municipal and 
provincial governments as well as law enforcement and community 
groups. A facility must demonstrate its financial sustainability, and 
all staff would undergo criminal background checks.

The issue of safe injection sites has been on the political landscape 
since 2011, when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of InSite, the 
first such facility in North America, located in Vancouver's east side.

Conservatives have long insisted the facilities foster drug use, 
while the NDP believes they can reduce the health risks associated 
with intravenous drug use.

Though research has shown the rate of drug overdoses significantly 
decreased in Vancouver after the introduction of InSite in 2003, the 
Canadian Police Association opposes these facilities, believing that 
their "successes have been overemphasized and their consequences have 
been under-reported."

CPA spokesman Michael Gendron told QMI Agency, "Drug consumption 
comes with a host of other issues," but was less specific when asked 
what some of those problems were.

"Other crimes are committed -- they still have to get the drugs. They 
still have to engage in illegal activities," Gendron said.

The Canadian Medical Association is very concerned about the 
legislation and said in a statement, "Supervised injection programs 
are an important harm reduction strategy."

Last year researchers at St. Michael's University and the University 
of Toronto recommended supervised injection sites for Toronto and Ottawa.

The mayors of both Toronto and Ottawa have expressed their opposition 
to hosting these facilities.

NDP MP Libby Davies called the legislation politically driven and 
said the new rules will make it almost impossible for any new 
injection facilities to open.

"The courts have been clear that the Conservatives need to base their 
decisions on evidence and public health, not their own rhetoric and 
ideology," she said.
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