A recent survey by Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl gauging opinion on the concept of a supervised drug injection site for Chilliwack got an “overwhelming” negative response from constituents.
MP Strahl cited 77 per cent of respondents who said they do not believe the federal government should be able to approve a safe injection site without community consultation, and 69 per cent who said they were opposed to the idea of such a facility opening in Chilliwack.
“The response was overwhelming,” said MP Mark Strahl about the opinion survey from February 2017. “A strong majority of people in Chilliwack-Hope want the Federal government to consult communities before opening drug injection sites. Further, they do not want a drug injection site to open in our community at this time.”
At this point there are no concrete plans by anyone to open a supervised, safe consumption site in Chilliwack, but the controversial topic has been broached nonetheless at the community level.
“Many of the respondents suggested that our communities should focus on improving treatment and addictions services before considering a safe injection site,” said MP Strahl. “I will be relaying the findings of this survey to the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister and hope that the views of my constituents will be taken into account.”
But some are questioning the scientific accuracy of the MP’s survey, or the need ultimately for any public consultation.
Dr. Marc Greidanus, an emergency physician, took issue with some aspects of the survey, which he said was more akin to “propaganda,” than a true quest for information.
“Health care policy should be dictated by health care professionals, not by public opinion, and certainly not by propaganda tools disguised as surveys,” said Greidanus. “It is unfortunate that Mark Strahl continues to use the plight of the mentally ill in our city to score political points. The legality of supervised consumption sites has already been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.”
Many in the medical field have drawn attention to the fact that scientific evidence in favour of a holistic approach including harm reduction, and safe consumption sites, is clear.
“Harm reduction methods save lives, reduce the spread of disease, and improve access to health care for marginalized populations,” Greidanus said.
It’s a “pragmatic” approach in fact, encompassing addiction treatment, social housing, harm reduction and mental health outreach, he said, that benefits the user by “exposing them to health care professionals” on a regular basis, “benefits others accessing healthcare by decongesting the system and benefits the taxpayer by saving money on expensive medical therapies and ICU stays.”
City councillor Ken Popove, who co-chairs the Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) group, agreed that safe injection should be seen as part of a continuum of care options, along with other treatment and addiction services, for those who are ready.
“It’s part of the whole process for those who want to get help,” he said. “I guess we haven’t gotten that message across yet, but through CHC we will. There is science on this. It’s been working well for years in parts of Europe.”
The surge of addicted homeless people in Chilliwack is a new phenomenon, Popove said. So it’s going to take some time and some new ideas.
“We’ve never dealt with this before. It’s going to take a layered process to make this work. If we can help just one person, it will be worth it.”
Strahl’s survey asked the following questions and yielded these results:
Do you believe that the federal government should be able to approve a “safe”/supervised drug injection site without community consultations?
YES 318/1,356 = 23%
NO 1,038/1,356 = 77%
Do you believe that a “safe”/supervised drug injection site should be opened in Chilliwack—Hope?
YES 420/1,343 = 31%
NO 923/1,343 = 69 %