Well this is exciting. A little good news for a change. Once again the BC Supreme Court has found Canadian drug laws to be unconstitutional. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but in this case it will grant Insite (Vancouver’s safe injection site) a reprieve until next summer when the courts expect to see the federal government ammend the law in order to recognize the injection site as a health care facility which would enshring the province’s jurisdiction (in Canada drug laws are federal, but the provision of health services is provincial). Further the court maintained that refusing accomodate for the health needs of addicts is a violation of Charter rights.
Since opening in 2003, Insite has been living on borrowed time. Time-limited exemptions granted by Health Canada to “pilot” the site ran into trouble as soon as Harper’s Conservatives were elected, and no amount of research on positive effects or lobbying by the Vancouver Police Department has changed that. (For the record – the VPD supports the injection site, but the police union does not.) No matter that the site has managed over 1000 overdoses with no deaths, or can document a reduction in needle sharing (drastically lowering rates of disease transmission) in regular Insite users – the Conservative government is yet again taking the unrealistic position of prohibition. And we all know how well that has worked over the past several decades of decline in the downtown eastside.
Fortunately the BC Supreme Court has taken that decision out of the government’s hands, at least for now. Small consolation when you have to rely on the court system to protect you from the government. But still it’s a rather large victory for Canada’s poorest zip code, and I’m glad to get the news.