HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Owen Says Safe Injection Sites 'A Done Deal'
Pubdate: Wed, 08 May 2002
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)


City council may have reiterated its support last Thursday for 
supervised drug injection sites, but the plan still has a few 
bureaucratic hoops to jump through before it becomes reality.

Mayor Philip Owen, however, says he's not worried about the need for 
approval from the provincial government, the Vancouver Coastal Health 
Authority and the police, not to mention a Health Canada review of 
the national pilot project.

The province, health authority and police board are on record as 
approving the mayor's four-pillar approach to drug problems in the 
city, including setting up supervised injection sites, he said, 
adding Liberal MPs Alan Rock and Anne McLellan also support the idea. 
"It's a done deal."

Owen predicts Vancouver could be home to an injection site or sites 
by late this year or early next year-after he's retired and a new 
council has been sworn in.

"The decision's been made," he said. "Of course a new council can do 
anything it likes... but there's public opinion out there that has to 
be considered, which is overwhelmingly supportive of this in 
Vancouver and right across the country."

Last Thursday, city council agreed to participate in a national harm 
reduction pilot project. At a recent Federation of Canadian 
Municipalities' meeting in Ottawa, Owen called for three or four 
cities to participate with Health Canada in scientific trials of 
supervised injection sites.

Owen said Quebec City and Montreal have already agreed to 
participate. Now it's just a matter of Vancouver city staff 
soliciting renewed support from the province, police and health 
authority before sending a report to Health Canada.

A legal framework will also have to be developed by the federal 
government, with possible changes to the Controlled Drugs and 
Substances Act. Provisions exist in the Act to accommodate supervised 
injection sites, said Dr. Perry Kendall, the province's chief medical 
health officer, who accompanied Owen to Ottawa in February for the 
municipalities' meeting.

Paige Raymond Kovach, spokeswoman for Health Canada, wouldn't 
speculate on what Health Canada's review of a national safe injection 
trial would involve, or how long it would take. She noted the 
government agency is reviewing a similar proposal from a 
federal-provincial-territorial committee-of which Kendall is a member.

Kendall said he's anxious to get a safe injection site operating in 
the city so politicians and health officials can gauge its 

"There is a substantial body of evidence from Europe that suggests 
supervised injection sites can be very helpful in improving public 
safety and public health."

Owen believes the trial should last at least a year to see whether 
the safe injection sites are having an effect on getting addicts off 
drugs and reducing crime in the city.

The mayor downplayed concerns about the city's liability if an addict 
overdosed inside a supervised injection site or committed a crime 
after shooting up in a city-run facility, saying people sue the city 
all the time.

"We've got lawyers, we'll take it on and we'll defend it, but we're 
not going to let that deter us because that's not a factor that's a 
deterrent at this point," he said.

"If we get obscure and watered-down about all those kinds of things, 
we're not being focused on the real objective here. The war on drugs 
failed in the United States-we've got this decay now. We've got to do 
something and you can't liberalize your way out of it. You can't 
incarcerate your way out of it. You can't ignore it-you manage it."

In December 2000, a city-commissioned poll found that more than 70 
per cent of Vancouver residents surveyed supported establishing a 
task force to consider establishing supervised injection sites to 
reduce health risks and minimize open drug use.

The number of illicit drug deaths in Vancouver averaged 147 per year 
from 1994 to 2000.
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