Pubdate: Fri, 19 May 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andrea Woo
Page: S1


A piece of legislation that makes it easier to open supervised
injection sites has become law, replacing Harper-era regulations that
effectively stalled the harm reduction service as overdose deaths climbed.

Under Bill C-37, which received royal assent on Thursday, agencies
wanting to open a supervised-injection site must meet five streamlined
conditions, down from 26 under the previous Respect for Communities

The Liberal government tabled the bill in December. It received final
approval on Wednesday, with minor amendments.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott called the passing of the bill
"very good news."

"As you well know, we're facing an overdose epidemic in this country
of unprecedented proportions," she told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday.

"[The legislation] will have a significant impact in terms of our
ability to offer harm-reduction services, including, of course,
facilitating the ability for communities that want and need supervised
consumption sites to be able to establish those facilities."

Only two new sites - both in Montreal - have been approved under the
previous legislation, whose onerous process critics decried as a
deliberate effort to impede supervised consumption service. The Harper
government had introduced it in 2015 after fighting Insite,
Vancouver's public supervised-injection site, all the way to the
Supreme Court of Canada, and losing. (The Montreal sites are not yet

In B.C., which has been hardest hit by the overdose crisis, a record
931 people died in 2016 alone. Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall
said energy and money that could have gone into expanding supervised
consumption service instead went into fighting to keep Insite open.

"I think had the Respect for Communities Act not been in place, we
might well have seen supervised consumption sites in Victoria, as well
as possibly one or two more in Vancouver," he said on Thursday.

"[The previous legislation] clearly acted as a disincentive for people
to move forward," Dr. Kendall said.

Insite receives roughly 700 visits a day, including around 400 to the
injection room. In 14 years of operation, it has never recorded a
fatal overdose. Vancouver Coastal Health officials are hopeful the
passing of Bill C-37 will mean the two applications it submitted in
October will be approved soon.

The City of Vancouver estimates that at least 154 people have died so
far this year.

Under the new legislation, agencies that want to open a
supervised-consumption site must meet five factors outlined in the
2011 Supreme Court decision regarding Insite. They must show: proof of
need; community consultations; evidence about the site's effect on
crime; that there is an administrative structure in place; and that
there are adequate resources to maintain the site.

Only one letter of support from the provincial or territorial minister
responsible for the delivery of supervised-consumption services is now
required. Previously, a prospective operator had to submit five
support letters, from the minister, police, local health professionals
and others. Now, background checks are only required for the people in
charge, not for all staff members, as per the old rules.

One proposed amendment that staff "shall offer" alternative
pharmaceutical therapies before a client can use illicit drugs was
changed to "may offer." Another amendment that the minister be able to
establish citizen advisory committees for approved sites was deleted.
The public consultation period was changed from a maximum of 90 days
to a minimum of 45.

The legislation also prohibits the unregistered importation of pill
presses and allows border officials to screen packages weighing 30
grams or less if there are reasonable grounds.

There are currently 19 outstanding applications for
supervised-consumption sites across Canada, with some nearing the
final stages.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt