Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Ontario POV

From the Globe and Mail: lots about crack pipes, not much about Insite. Disappointing from "Canada's [Ontario-centric] National Newspaper". Anyways, the Ministry of Health and Long-term care points out UN contridictions; stands by their harm reduction programs.

UN rebukes Canada over drug programs:
Injection sites and 'crack kits' defy treaty

March 7, 2008

The United Nations drug control board has slammed three Canadian programs that provide safe crack pipes and injection sites to drug addicts.

The government-funded programs in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto are in contravention of a worldwide anti-drug convention that Canada signed in 1988, the
International Narcotics Control Board said in its annual report, released Wednesday. The INCB is the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body that implements the UN's drug-control conventions.

"The Board calls upon the Government of Canada to end programmes, such as the supply of 'safer crack kits,' including the mouthpiece and screen components of pipes for smoking 'crack,' " the control board's report says.

"The distribution of drug paraphernalia, including crack pipes, to drug users in Ottawa and Toronto, as well as the presence of drug injection sites is also in violation of the international drug control treaties, to which Canada is a party."

Article 13 of the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances reads, in part, that the parties should take measures "to prevent trade in and the diversion of materials and equipment for illicit production or manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances."

But the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which in December stepped in to help fund a safe inhalation program in Ottawa that the city's council ended,
says that article contradicts findings by the World Health Organization - the UN's governing authority for health - that support the use of safe injection sites.

The Ottawa program provides drug users with rubber-tipped glass tubes to smoke crack in an effort to reduce the spread of disease through pipe-sharing.

"It's interesting to note that one branch of the United Nations is supporting safe injection sites while the other branch is saying to get rid of them," said Laurel Ostfield, a spokeswoman for Health Minister George Smitherman.

She said the ministry stands by its programs.

[emphasis added]

Advocates speak out against UN report

From the Vancouver Province [emphasis added]

Harm-reduction advocates outraged at UN call to shut Insite
By Christina Montgomery, The ProvincePublished: Saturday, March 08, 2008

Supporters of Canada's harm-reduction approach to drug addiction are livid that a United Nations monitoring body wants Ottawa to slam the door shut on Vancouver's safe-injection site -- and put an end to distribution of "safe" crack kits to addicts.

In an annual report by the International Narcotics Control Board released this week, the UN board said distribution of the kits in some areas of Canada contravened part of the UN's Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs.

The board said the drug programs violate international drug-control treaties to which Canada is a party.

A UN report recommends Vancouver close down Insite and stop handing out clean crack pipes to addicts.

The disposable crack-pipe mouth pieces -- usually rubber-tipped glass tubes -- are given to addicts to avoid the spread of blood-borne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, when addicts share pipes.

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside safe-injection site, known as Insite, allows addicts to inject their own heroin and cocaine under the supervision of a nurse, who provides them with clean needles.

Medical journals report that Insite, the only facility of its kind in North America, has reduced overdoses and blood-borne infections.

But five years into operation, the site's fate is uncertain. It operates under an exemption from Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which runs out in June.

The Conservative government has not said whether it will extend the exemption.

But the UN report incensed supporters of Insite.

Sen. Larry Campbell, a former mayor of Vancouver and a former coroner, called the narcotics board "stooges for a failed U.S. war on drugs" and told reporters he would personally block Insite's doorway if officials tried to close it down.

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan also dismissed the board's report by insisting it simply didn't understand Insite's success.

"The way we've approached drug addiction worldwide has been a failure," Sullivan told reporters. "We need new approaches. We need to be open to innovations."

Thomas Kerr, a research scientist at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS, voiced concern that Ottawa would seize on the report as an excuse to close Insite.

Richard Pearshouse, speaking for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, told
reporters the report was "driven more by ideology and a war-on-drugs ideology than the research and the scientific evidence that supports these as a public-health intervention."

Different branches of the UN can't agree on Insite, Cdn Drug policy

My question is: How is the UN approaching other countries with safe injection sites? Are they signatories to the same treaties? Is their compliance also being questioned?

From The Vancouver Province, [emphasis added]

UN drug czar wants Insite closed
Is B.C.'s safe-injection site legal or not?

Canwest News ServicePublished: Wednesday, March 05, 2008

UNITED NATIONS -- The head of the United Nations drug-control agency wants Insite, Vancouver's safe-injection site, closed.

The International Narcotics Control Board is calling on Canada to ban various community-backed programs that enable illicit drug use, including Insite. It also wants to stop "safer crack kits" being handed out.

"We want the government of Canada to be in compliance with [its] treaty obligations, but there is an internal problem, and we would urge the government of Canada to sort [it] out," agency head, Dr. Philip Emafo, said The UN body says Insite
contravenes a 1961 treaty Canada signed that says countries should pass laws ensuring drugs are used only for medical or scientific purposes.

Last year, Insite was granted a special exemption from federal drug-enforcement laws, to last until June 30.

Insite has appealed to the B.C. Supreme Court to rule it is a health facility that is therefore constitutionally under provincial jurisdiction.

Insite has argued that the UN narcotics-control board itself called for a legal opinion from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which found that harm-reduction programs do not violate treaties.

"It's clear from the legal brief that Insite is in compliance, and all it's doing is providing an intake bridge to recovery for users," said Insite spokesman Nathan Allen.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority focused its "Safer Crack Kits" program on Nanaimo last year, but suspended the pilot project after community opposition.

However, the province's Centre for Disease Control is looking at adding similar kits for distribution throughout B.C., along with other "harm-reduction" supplies such as condoms and syringes.

Health Minister Tony Clement could not be reached for comment.