Thursday, July 03, 2008

An eventful 6 weeks

Well, I've gotten behind on blogging and it's been about the most eventful 6 weeks possible (for InSite and my private life, so bad timing there). Anyways, here's a timeline of the most recent events at InSite:

On May 28th the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the Federal Govt to close InSite and further exempted InSite from federal drug laws until June 30, 2009. (CTV story here).

In a May 29th speech to the Parliamentary Health Committee, Tony Clement, Minister for Health, in a mind boggling political spin on addiction, hope, dying and palliative care

"called Insite "a failure of public policy... [and] ethical judgment." More focus should be on prevention and treatment and not on "palliative care," he said, referring to Mayor Sullivan's description of Insite's purpose. "Palliative care is what you give someone when there is no hope," Clement said. "It is end-stage treatment when every other solution has failed and we just wait for people to die. But injection drug users are not dying. There is still hope for them." (Vancouver Courier article here)

[Rant: There is so much wrong with his quote, I don't know where to begin (luckily others are more knowledgable and suscinct than I). My $0.02: That the Health Minister is unaware that Palliative Care extends beyond the dying and thinks it is devoid of hope (for either the dying or the ill) is shameful. That someone who still claims to have hope for those with addictions would take away life-saving resources is atrocious. Anyways, he also said that more treatment beds were needed. No kidding. No one (at InSite or otherwise) thinks differently. Harm Reduction works WITH treatment. It facillitates and leads to treatment. Four Pillars not one. More on that below...]

June 3rd : The Attorney General of Canada filed an appeal of the Supreme Court of BC ruling (Vancouver Courier article here).

June 3rd to 5th: Ipsos Reid conducts a national poll asking Canadians if safe injection sites were a "good thing", a "bad thing" or if they weren't sure. A majority of Canadians (55%) said they were a good thing. Province by province a majority voted "good" except in in Ontario (49%)Saskatchewan and Manitoba (both at 45%). A majority (57%) of urban dwellers went with good (no surprise there), as did a half of the rural dwellers polled. The second question asked Canadians if they thought InSite should be expanded to other Canadian cities. 49% said yes, 46% no and 5% didn't know. (Montreal Gazette article here).

June 4th: In that Ipsos-Reid poll, Quebeckers were the most favourable to safe injection sites (66%). No shock then when they announce that they are considering a safe injection site(s) also. ( article here, Montreal Gazette article here).

June 5th: Demonstration on Parliament Hill with the planting of crosses on the lawn to represent the 868 overdose interventions to date at Insite. (Georgia Straight article here, articleby Libby Davies (MP in whose riding Insite sits) here). [Jen's excuse for not having a picture/participating here, it was at the exact same time as the ceremony]

June 8th: An interview with Liz Evans on (here) in which she discusses the private member's bill in the BC legislature to designate InSite a provincial responsibility and the rally where the government and opposition gave the attending Downtown Eastside residents a standing ovation. She also comments on how governments heel-dragging over InSite has obscured debate and movement on the other 3 pillars of the Four Pillars Approach

July 2nd: Although the Vancouver police chief is known to support InSite, the official word from the VPD on whether InSite is a "good thing" or "bad thing" is "we're not sure; we'll sit on the fence" ( story here).

And lastly, the most recent news item deals with the likely next step: the appeal of the BC Supreme court ruling in the Supreme court of Canada:

[Vancouver] safe-injection site case headed for Supreme Court of [Canada], lawyer predicts (from The Canadian Press here)

VANCOUVER — The future of Vancouver's controversial supervised-injection site is likely headed for the Supreme Court of Canada, says the lawyer representing a group fighting to keep the facility open.

Ottawa has filed its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that struck down sections of federal drug laws and ensures Insite will remain open as a constitutionally protected health-care service.

But lawyer Monique Pongracic-Speier predicts the case won't be settled at the B.C. Court of Appeal, regardless of the outcome.

"I think there is a realistic chance that this will go up to the Supreme Court of Canada," Pongracic-Speier said in an interview Wednesday.

"It's an extremely important constitutional issue and it is an issue that I believe the Supreme Court of Canada would find has a national interest."

Insite opened in the city's troubled Downtown Eastside as a pilot project in 2003 under a special exemption from federal drug laws, but Ottawa had refused to say whether it would extend the exemption after it expired at the end of last month.

In a May 27 decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield ruled that federal drug laws prohibiting drug trafficking and possession are unconstitutional and gave the federal government a year to rewrite them.

Pitfield said laws that prevent people suffering from the disease of addiction from accessing such a service infringe on their right to life, liberty and security of the person.

Within days of the decision, federal Health Minister Tony Clement announced his intention to appeal and made it clear Ottawa wants the facility shut down.

Documents filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal last month don't list the government's specific reasons for seeking to overturn the decision, but ask that the Supreme Court ruling be set aside.

In the meantime, Pongracic-Speier said the facility will remain open.

"Insite's operations will not be affected unless and until the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court is overturned by a higher court," she said.

The two groups who initially launched the court challenged filed their own appeal of the decision.

While Pitfield ruled that it would be unconstitutional to force Insite to close, he rejected the plaintiffs' arguments that the facility should be exclusively under provincial jurisdiction because it is a health-care facility.

The site, which sees an average of 600 users each day, allows addicts to bring their own drugs to inject under the supervision of medical staff.

The site has a long list of supporters, including the city's mayor and police chief, but opponents claim the site promotes drug use by facilitating addiction.

New Democrat MP Libby Davies, whose riding includes Insite, said the federal government's appeal is purely political.

"It's not based on any evidence or any public policy issue, so I think that it's a colossal waste of time," Davies said.

"Insite is part of the solution, it's not part of the problem. Why would the federal government spend all of this time and money to fight a battle they're going to lose

Thanks for joining me for the news; stay tuned for sports and weather.

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