Pubdate: Wed, 01 Apr 2015
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick


Last week, Insite received its annual Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act exemption that the supervised-injection facility requires in order
to operate without breaking the law. Health Canada has granted the
exemption each March for more than a decade. But next year, that
process is expected to be a whole new challenge, said Gavin Wilson, a
spokesperson for Insite's operator, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

In a phone interview with the Straight, Wilson explained that by that
time, Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act, will likely have
passed into law. Parliament approved the Conservative legislation on
March 23, and it is now making its way through the Senate.

Wilson noted that Bill C-2 would place more than 25 new requirements
on Insite and any facility seeking to offer supervised-injection
services in Canada. "This will make it very difficult for Insite to
receive another exemption," he said. "Now, we are fully committed to
do whatever is required."

Wilson took just one example: a requirement that applicants submit
police data for a facility's location. "That's about 12 years of crime
statistics for Insite and its surrounding area," he emphasized.
"Someone is going to have to pull all of that information together,
and that's just one of more than 25 different conditions."

A number of studies including a seminal 2011 paper published in the
prestigious Lancet medical journal describe how Insite has
significantly reduced overdose deaths in the area (a fatal overdose
has never occured at the facility), and also contributed to reductions
in drug-related crime as well as declines in risky behaviors such as
the sharing of needles.

In November 2014, the Straight reported Victoria mayor Dean Fortin was
in favour of bringing a supervised-injection facility to the
province's capital. And earlier in the year, VCH chief medical officer
Patricia Daly revealed plans to expand safe-consumption services and
integrate the program into existing clinics throughout Vancouver (a
strategy more cost-effective than adding stand-alone facilities like
Insite, she noted). Wilson said Bill C-2 will, at the very least, slow
those efforts.

Adrienne Smith is a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society who testified on
Bill C-2 before a parliamentary committee last November. She told the
Straight the proposed legislation is inconsistent with a 2011 Supreme
Court of Canada decision that found a denial of the services Insite
offers was a violation of drug users' right to life, liberty, and
security of the person.

"On the face of it, we say the bill is unconstitutional," Smith

She noted parallels between Bill C-2 and Bill C-36, the Protection of
Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which the Conservatives voted
into law in October 2014. Bill C-36 outlaws the purchasing of sex.
Critics maintain that this provision violates the spirit of a 2013
Supreme Court of Canada decision that states that laws criminalizing
certain activities performed by sex workers endanger those
individuals' safety.

"This is not the first time we have seen the Supreme Court give really
clear guidance on what must happen," Smith said, "and then the
Conservatives try and legislate that out of existence."

Health Canada declined a request for an interview.

Libby Davies is the NDP MP who played a central role in bringing
Insite to the Vancouver East riding back in 2003. She described Bill
C-2 as another example of the Conservatives crafting health policy
based on ideology as opposed to science.

"It flies in the face of all evidence of what works," she said on the
phone from Ottawa. "It's based on the Conservative government's fear
and opposition to harm reduction."
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