Safe injection sites -- Proposed bill increases barriers
The Harper government has been making it difficult for safe-injection sites to continue operating, by increasing legislative road blocks. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq tabled a bill called Respect for Communities Act, in the House of Commons June 6th which would require police, provincial minsters, and local governments to weigh in on the issue of safe-injection sites, before granting licenses for the sites to be allowed to operate legally.
Aglukkaq recently stated the government’s concerns with the existence of the safe injection sites, and the possible harm she believes it may cause communities who exist around these sites.
“Our government believes that creating a location for sanctioned use of drugs obtained from illicit sources has the potential for great harm in the community,” Aglukkaq said in a statement.
The Health Minister also discussed her desire for multiple parties to be included in the discussion process, which will ultimately decide if individual cities will be able to operate safe injection sites.
“Accordingly, we believe that the application process needs to be changed to create formal opportunities for local voices to be heard and their views considered before an exemption would be granted.”
It is no secret that the Conservative government has long opposed the existence of safe injection sites. In 2011, the supreme court ruled that it was unconstitutional, and a violation of section 7 rights to liberty and security of the person, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All nine judges involved recognized the possibility for the increase of disease and death should a ban of safe injection sites take place.
The ruling also had a caveat giving the Health Minister the ability to consider a number of factors when opening safe injection sites, such as the impact on crime rates. Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, is concerned about the speed at which safe injection sites can be opened.
“What we need is a mechanism to facilitate the opening of safe injection sites, which is what the Supreme Court of Canada actually intended with the ruling,” he said. “The fact is that nothing has moved and I am very concerned that we have raging epidemics in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for example, predominantly driven by injection drug use,” said Montaner in a statement to the Globe and Mail.
There is no problem with members of the community in which safe-injection sites are being placed, to have a say and allow for their voices to be heard and for discourse to take place, however the alternative to safe injection sites must also be considered. The reality for drug users without access to clean, safe sites, is to be forced to do drugs in the open community, perhaps with unclean needles putting them at risk for Hepatitis, HIV and other preventable health concerns.
In addition, other members of the community such as children, may find the dirty needles and injure themselves. Regardless of whether one approves of the act of using drugs is irrelevant. Safe injection sites provide drug users with safety and security, as well as the opportunity for help with their drug addictions. The Conservative government needs to understand that the existence of safe injection sites does not necessarily correlate to the approval of drug use, it is simply to promote public health and safety for everyone.