04 October 2015

#64 No Health For the Wicked

So we know that the outgoing federal government was not happy with the decision of the Supreme Court to the effect that their blocking the operation of InSite put in danger the health and lives of people who use drugs in that community. The Supreme Court decision, however, left ajar a door for the federal government to establish regulations regarding the granting of the Criminal Code exemption that allows such services to operate unmolested by police raids. I think we all know that the door left ajar will be pushed wide open by a government determined to block this kind of service on “moral” grounds, no matter if their new regulation will eventually be struck down as unconstitutional after a long and costly court battle.

What the federal government came up with was, of course, quite predictable. Their “Respect for Communities Act” might as well have been called the “If You Use Drugs You Deserve to Die Act” if they applied their usual over-the-top naming rules to it. The basic premise is that any group in a community could block the establishment of such a facility in their neighbourhood — your basic NIMBY law (not in my back yard).

At the same time as the government introduced its bill, the Conservative Party launched a campaign to encourage the creation of citizen groups to oppose these harm reduction services, using the image above. Of course, the crazy thing about the image is that it is exactly what you don’t get if you have a supervised injection service, as the used material is immediately recuperated and not tossed out on the street.

In fact, in the experience of a number of organization providing needle exchange services, neighbours who resist their establishment at the beginning often come to appreciate their presence later on. They learn that if there is someone having a drug-related crisis in the neighbourhood, the organization can quickly respond to it, averting harm to the community and harm to the person in crisis. When one such organization in Montréal moved a few years ago, there was resistance on the part of its neighbours to the group’s leaving their immediate neighbourhood.

But with the outgoing government, we don’t get to hear about the positive outcomes. We only get to see the scary spectre of crazed drug users strewing dangerous used syringes in playgrounds and we only get to hear the oversimplified response that “the best harm reduction is prevention”.

There are many reasons for which a person might decide to use drugs to escape or to dull the pain of a difficult life. There are no reasons that would justify throwing that person’s life away when there is something that can be done to save it.

Further reading here

“Drugs are bad!” they say
But is the best path away
to let people die?

No comments: