Thursday, August 17, 2006

Safe Injection Sites Must be Continued

The safe injection site in Vancouver's Eastside will be closing in September, unless the Conservatives extend its life, something they have thus far failed to do.

Many members of the Conservative Caucus--probably the grumpy old men who have never set foot in Vancouver's Eastside--are surely grumbling to let the project die. But this would be a tremendous mistake.

Safe injection sites provide a strong mechanism for reducing infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, among drug users. They provide a safe and clean place for drug users to use those drugs. They provide a location where staff are trained to deal with the adverse effects of impure drugs and overdoses. In doing these, they save lives, stop the spread of disease, and create safer communities.

Most importantly, however, safe infection sites provide a necessary first step for reducing the use of injection drugs. Counselling services are available, and while counselling is not a sufficient step for rehabilitation, it is a necessary first step.

The presence of safe injection sites will not encourage drug use; it will merely bring it out into the open, where it can be done safely and managed. By bringing it into a safe injection site, drug users can receive help which they otherwise would not have gotten.

By contrast, the Harper government would police its way to solving drug problems. While law enforcement must certainly be a necessary component of a strategy combatting drug use, it cannot be the primary component, as shown by its failure throughout parts of the United States.

The Mayor of Vancouver supports the project. The Police Chief of Vancouver supports the project. Liberals across the country support the project. So who opposes the project? The Conservatives meanwhile spurn it.

Maybe the Conservatives would have some credibility if their only urban MP weren't a Liberal defector who is out of touch with his constituents and who will certainly lose his seat in the next election. If the Conservatives cared about urban issues or city dwellers felt that the Conservatives understood their problems, then maybe the Conservatives might have some credibility. As it stands, they do not.


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