Oh Canada! Insite stays, but for how long?

Great news from Vancouver: the city’s safe injecting facility, Insite, is allowed to continue saving lives. For now. It’s the second time that Insite has won a case brought by the right-wing rottweilers of prime minister Stephen Harper. This victory was in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. But Harper may decide to put more taxpayers’ money into lawyers’ pockets by taking it to the nation’s supreme court.

An appeal would fly in the face of the data (which show that Insite reduces overdoses and many of the other frankly nasty things that happen to people who live with addiction to injectible drugs). It would fly in the face of pragmatism — up just one flight of stairs from the safe injecting room is a drug treatment centre which works to help people get off drugs when they’re ready to try. Detox is never an easy thing to achieve; our best bet is to have really strong links between services for current injectors and services that help them stop. But most of all it would fly in the face of any remaining self-respect that Canadians might have about their political system. Because although the newspapers talk of “the Harper government” doing this or that, Canada actually has no government right now, or at least none that answers to the normal description of parliamentary democracy. What right, then, does Harper have to be prosecuting court cases that waste tax dollars and lives?

Harper’s bully boy tactics may work for Insite in the end, though. HealthCanada is typically mealy-mouthed about an appeal, saying: “While the government respects the court’s decision, it is disappointed with the outcome. The government is reviewing the decision carefully. Until this review is complete, it would be inappropriate to speculate on future action on the part of the government of Canada.” But it’s very clear that a Liberal government would not keep banging its head against the wall of common sense that Insite represents. And by sending parliament packing until March, Harper may just have signed the death warrant for his own “government”. That would be good news for Insite users and other Canadians alike.

Thanks to Miriam for bringing this to my attention while I’m in distant Vietnam.

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This post was published on 19/01/10 in War on drugs.

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  1. Comment by Frank, 13/11/10, 12:47:

    I haven’t been in Vancouver in about 4 years but prior to that I use to spend a considerable amount of time in the lower east side. I am not sure if the safe injection site is still there and where there is no argument it saves lives I think locally the people who are most against it are the people who live there.

    I am told that since the Olympics it has clean up some but frankly I wouldn’t park my car in the area and expect to have it all when I got back. Even as a fairly big guy I was nervous walking through the area in broad daylight. So where I believe in harm reduction and safe injection sites I do have compassion for the local people who have had their homes in the area for generations and are afraid to walk down the street.

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