Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Message from Thomas Kerr on the Canadian Supreme Court decision

On Friday, September 30th the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the Canadian Health Minister to grant an immediate exemption to allow for the continued operation of Insite - Vancouver's supervised injection facility. This facility has successfully managed over 1500 overdose events, and a recent analysis showed that there had been a 35% decline in overdose deaths in the first two years after Insite opened. In the summary statement of their judgement the Supreme Court justices said the following: "The Minister’s failure to grant [an exemption] to Insite…contravened the principles of fundamental justice…Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernable negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada… Where, as here, a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption." This decision establishes the primacy of science over ideology, and in this case ensures that people who inject drugs in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside will continue to have access to a program that has been show to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with overdose. This is a great victory for both public health and science, and this decision should send a message to policy makers around the world that, despite the ongoing global war on drugs, ALL individuals have an inherent right to life, liberty and security of the person.

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