REAL Women to intervene in appeal of ‘safe’ drug injection site

By 
  • March 23, 2011
REAL Women national vice-president Gwen LandoltOTTAWA - REAL Women of Canada has been granted leave to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Vancouver safe drug injection site case to be argued May 11.

The pro-family, pro-life women’s organization is the only group among nine interveners that will argue on behalf of the federal government’s position that Ottawa has jurisdiction to control illegal drugs and that those laws should have a moral basis.

The federal government is appealing a 2010 B.C. Court of Appeal ruling, which dismissed an earlier government appeal, to close InSite, the supervised safe-injection site in Vancouver. InSite opened in 2003 under a temporary exemption from national drug laws and offers drug addicts a place  to inject drugs while connecting to health services. When the temporary exemption was set to expire, InSite went to the B.C. Supreme Court and won a permanent exemption.

REAL Women national vice president Gwen Landolt said the offer of so-called “safe” injection sites for addicts who desperately need treatment to get them off drugs is “assisting in the suicide of drug addicts.” She warned the push for such sites is part of an overall strategy to decriminalize drug use. Removing criminal penalties sends a message to society that addictive drug use is socially acceptable.

British Columbia has argued InSite provides health care to addicts and is thus a health issue under provincial jurisdiction.

Landolt disagrees the site provides health care. The present federal drug laws and the use of “drug courts” to force addicts arrested on possession charges to choose between treatment or a criminal charge are the only ways to help addicts, Landolt said. 

“Treatment is the only way addicts can get out of the horror of being an addict.”

The province has the support of groups such as the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), which is among the nine interveners.

“The CMA strongly supports the inclusion of harm-reduction tools in a comprehensive national drug strategy,” said CMA president Dr. Jeff Turnbull last October when announcing the CMA was seeking to intervene in the case. “The management of a substance-addicted person through a harm-reduction strategy such as InSite is a medical decision involving clinical autonomy and not an issue subject to government intrusion.”

Supporters of InSite argue the site protects addicts from dying from drug overdoses or contracting HIV/AIDs or hepatitis through the sharing of contaminated syringes.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said the case raises questions about the division of powers between the federal and the provincial governments and inter-jurisdictional immunity.

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