October 30, 2013
Response of the Hon Dr. Hedy Fry, P.C., M.P to our correspondence regarding safe injection sites in Canada
Dear Mr. Bertrand,
Thank you for your letter concerning Bill C-65, an Act to Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, now Bill C-2. The first act of the Conservative government in this session was to reintroduce the “Respect for Communities Act”, which should be more appropriately named the “banning of safe injection sites bill” because of its negative impact on accessing safe injection sites for some of Canada’s most vulnerable citizens.. The Conservative government is acting on ideology rather than evidence.
The Bill exceeds the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding InSite, going well beyond the factors to be considered when granting an exemption of S.56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Bill C-2 raises the criteria to establish a supervised injection site to such an extraordinarily high level that it would be nearly impossible for any future supervised consumption sites to be established in Canada. The Supreme Court ruling, keeping InSite open, was based on proof that InSite saved lives, citing Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedom:, “life, liberty and security of the person”.
Furthermore, only an hour after the legislation was initially introduced, Conservative campaign director Jenni Byrne issued a crass and misleading fundraising letter to supporters stating that the Liberals and NDP want addicts to shoot up heroin in the backyards of communities all across the country. From this, it is clear that the intention of the Conservative government is to fundraise on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in Canada, those with addictions and mental illness. Addiction is a disease that must be addressed primarily by clinical and public health guidelines.
As a physician, I support evidence-based policies that reduce harm, promote public health and protect public safety. I believe that supervised consumption sites form an integral component of such policies.
When I was Minister responsible for the Vancouver agreement, Liberals established Canada’s first supervised injection site, InSite, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which has been effective in supporting those suffering with mental illness and addictions, reducing crime, and protecting public safety. It was initially launched as an experiment and later proved to be successful, saving lives and improving health while decreasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area. The facility also included “On-Site”, where those with addictions that want treatment can access a bed and detox in the facility immediately.
A study co-authored by Dr. Julio Montaner found that there was a 35% reduction in overdose deaths following the opening of InSite. InSite maintains the support of the Vancouver Police as well as the City of Vancouver and the government of British Columbia and as already mentioned has achieved considerable success in its goals.
Bill C-2, on the other hand, has aroused the concerns of various health organizations. The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) raised concerns over the meaning of “broad community support” and whether or not one group’s opinion could outweigh that of several other groups. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), which also supports evidence-based harm-reduction tools, stated:
“The CMA's position is founded upon clinical evidence. Bill C-, it would appear, is founded upon ideology that seeks to hinder initiatives to mitigate the very real challenges and great personal harm caused by drug abuse.”
Rest assured that, as a Minister in the government that created InSite, as a family physician in Vancouver for 20 years, and as long-time supporter of harm reduction initiatives like InSite, I will continue to fight for InSite’s preservation and to ensure that evidence is the key factor in any policy decision.
Thank you once again for your correspondence and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
Hon Dr. Hedy Fry, P.C., M.P.
Liberal Party of Canada – Health Critic