I’ve decided Canada is bipolar. In the couple of days that I was there this week, one province bottled and pulled the plug on a solid programme to educate school kids about sex and relationships that it had announced just days earlier. The government took contraception off the agenda at the G8, then said ok to talk of pills and coils, but no to abortion. And though drug injection in prison continues apace, and government agencies and others say prison prevention programmes work, there are still no clean needles behind bars.
Is any of this a big surprise? Not really. But it is very much at odds with Canada’s self-image as a sensible, compassionate nation, and what boy-scout-in-chief Prime Minister Stephen Harper promises the world. I made this point on CBC’s morning radio show in Edmonton on Tuesday. My interviewer, Ron Wilson, seemed genuinely perplexed that Canadian politicians might make decisions that are not always in the bests interests of drug injectors. Listen to the podcast here.
I was so surprised by his surprise that I went back and looked at what Harper says about evidence-based policy. Here it is:
“Leaders agreed to the following principles…[we will] Base our actions on the best available science and evidence-based decision-making.”
He was talking specifically about flu in that context, so perhaps he believes that flu is different from other viruses. Perhaps scientific evidence doesn’t apply to HIV, or indeed to other sexually-transmitted disorders such as unwanted pregnancy. But to me, it’s all evidence of policy schizophrenia.
More good reporting on needles in jails from my favourite Canadian paper, Xtra.