Insite ruling a victory for better care

It was great news Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Vancouver’s Insite drug injection clinic. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that not allowing the clinic to operate under the umbrella of a federal exemption is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It was great news Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Vancouver’s Insite drug injection clinic. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that not allowing the clinic to operate under the umbrella of a federal exemption is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The infringement at stake (of not granting an exemption) is serious,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the ruling. “It threatens the health, indeed the lives, of the claimants and others like them. The grave consequences that might result from a lapse in the current constitutional exemption for Insite cannot be ignored.”

The feds would dearly like to ignore it. But the Supreme Court has ordered the federal minister of health to grant an immediate exemption to Insite under clause S.56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), thus allowing Insite to operate.

So it should.

“Insite saves lives,” said McLachlin. “Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation.”

Insite opened in September 2003 originally had a three-year exemption from Section 56 of the CDSA for scientific and research purposes. Exemptions were extended until the feds tried to block the process leading to the Supreme Court finale.

Insite is in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, home for more than one third of the estimated 12,000 injection drug users living in the city.

The facility’s 12 injection booths provide a safe place for drug users to inject pre-obtained drugs using clean syringes and equipment under the supervision of nurses and health care staff.

Addiction counsellors, doctors, and health care staff provide ongoing support for clients with addiction, mental health or HIV/AIDS issues. It’s a cross road where clients can try to explore a new life a chance.

The stats back it up. Since first opening, Insite has had more than 1.8 million visits. Last year alone there were 312,214 visits by 12,236 individuals. Daily visits averaged some 855 individuals with an average of 587 daily injections. Twenty-six per cent were women; 17 per cent were Aboriginal and the principal substances were heroin (36 per cent), cocaine (32 per cent) and morphine (12 per cent). Last year saw 458 admissions from Insite into Onsite, the adjoining detox treatment facility which recorded a program completion rate of 43 per cent.

More than 30 research studies into aspects of addiction and treatments have been published in peer-reviewed journals around the world, all concluding that Insite saves lives and is a health benefit. The research is clear that addiction is, first and foremost, a health issue before any legal issue surfaces. The latest article in the prestigious Lancet showed that drug overdoses decreased 35 per cent within 500 metres of Insite compared to 9 per cent elsewhere in Vancouver.

“This represents a victory for science,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence for HIV/AIDS. “Prior attempts from the federal government to stop the activities of Insite have been ruled unconstitutional. We are thankful for the unwavering support from the provincial government that has allowed us to set an example for how to deal with addiction which is a medical condition.”

The decision by the Supreme Court is a watershed moment for drug addiction policy.  The conservative government has always been against Insite. But there needs to be a cultural shift in Ottawa to understand that drug addiction needs health care, not law enforcement.

Instead of wasting tax dollars on more prisons, lawyers, and jail terms, the money should be used for health care initiatives and a coming together of harm reduction and prevention approaches.

Just Posted

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in March at the Hope Station House, showing support for preserving the 1916 building. (Photo/Christian Ward)
New reports breathe life into efforts to save the Hope Station House

The documents were presented to District of Hope Council at a meeting June 14

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

A 34-year-old man was arrested Monday after Transit Police found him riding a SkyTrain with a shotgun in the front of his sweatpants. (Transit Police)
SkyTrain passenger arrested, charged for concealing shotgun in his sweatpants

Codty-James Gray, 34, was found with ammunition, brass knuckles and knives

Most Read