Pubdate: Sat, 26 Aug 2017
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Tyler Dawson
Page: 4


The push for legal harm reduction requires breaking the law.

That was the chatter Friday down at the pop-up safe-injection site in
Lowertown. And it's true. With the big black tent in the background of
Raphael Brunet Park, volunteers prepared for what they expected to be
a busy evening. Boxes of fruit snacks and flats of Costco water sat
nearby. Some people moseyed through, grabbing a doughnut and cup of
coffee and asking what was going on.

Things that are illegal don't tend to become legal until people
realize the consequences aren't as grave as they fear. More to the
point, perhaps, with something like harm reduction and drug use,
things don't tend to become legal until everyone realizes that it was
criminality in the first place that made an activity dangerous.

Take overdoses. They're pretty manageable, in the scheme of things, if
you overdose somewhere you can get help.

This is less the case when someone's shooting up alone in an apartment
because they're embarrassed to do so with friends or don't want to get
caught by the cops.

But with support workers nearby, and a supply of naloxone - which
helps arrest an opioid overdose - using drugs becomes a lot less
dangerous. That's the whole logic behind giving out naloxone, free of
charge, at pharmacies around town. With more and more powerful drugs,
such as fentanyl, on the market, keeping people alive requires some
pretty bold solutions.

After all - and it's by now become a devastating cliche - you can't
help people who are dead.

This particular solution is not necessarily palatable, mind you, to
the folks staring out of their condos from across the street, but, to
be honest, "tough luck" is the only real response.

Lives are worth more than your queasiness.

The difference between the pop-up site and the as-yet-unopened (but
Health Canada approved) site coming to the Sandy Hill Community Health
Centre is that this one's more or less out in the open and not
concealed behind closed doors.

It's maybe a good metaphor on how Ottawa and Ontario and Canada ought
to confront the opioid crisis.

The public may prefer it all be done behind closed doors and politely
out of sight, but it's a very public health crisis and seeing the work
that's being done can't possibly lead anyone to any conclusion other
than the benefit of such sites.

Which, all put together, means there's no good reason to get too
worked up about a pop-up site. What difference does it make to you, if
you're not the person swinging by to get high?

No difference, is the answer. But people ending up in hospital, people
ending up dead, that should make a difference to you. Not just because
it costs money in emergency care, but because they're our fellow
citizens and neighbours.

At least one person seems to have felt otherwise, though, and put in a
call to bylaw Friday about the tent operating without a permit. Rather
banal complaint, isn't it? Either way, police showed up, looking good
and intimidating, telling the folks running the operation they just
wanted to make sure everyone's safe - the organizers gamely explained
that they're there to help keep people safe, too.

But the other players in this game who matter in this issue didn't
stop by. None of the city councillors had come by, though several were
specifically invited. Mayor Jim Watson, who has in the past vigorously
opposed supervised injection, didn't come by either. Chief Charles
Bordeleau hadn't either.

They all should've. This is part of the problem - policymakers who
figure they know what's what without taking a look and talking to some
real people and seeing what proper harm reduction looks like.

It looks like what happened on the corner of St. Patrick and
Cumberland on Friday.

And sometimes, it doesn't operate within the limits circumscribed the
law, or polite society.
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