Tuesday, May 29, 2007


'Harm reduction' doesn't work

Editorial: National Post
Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last week, it was announced that the Conservative government will soon unveil a new national anti-drug strategy. The plan is said to feature a get-tough approach to illegal drugs, including a crackdown on grow-ops and drug gangs. And while it will also (wisely) include tens of millions for rehabilitation of addicts and for a national drug prevention campaign, it is said to retreat from safe-injection sites and other fashionable "harm-reduction" strategies introduced by the previous Liberal government.

To which we say: Good. This editorial column has long urged a softening of drug policy on marijuana and other non-addictive recreational substances. But heroin and similarly addictive drugs are a different story. Moreover, safe injection sites don't work. And they send the wrong message, too, promoting disrespect for the rule of law by having government facilitating the consumption of illegal substances.

Safe-injection sites (SIS)-- typically inner-city facilities where addicts may go to shoot up with clean needles under the watchful eye of medical specialists --are often said to work wonders. Benefits claimed on behalf of Insite, Canada's one and only SIS in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside since 2003, include reduced needle sharing, reduced spread of deadly diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, fewer needles discarded in surrounding neighbourhoods and fewer addicts overdosing in alleys. Lives have been saved, advocates claim, the "well-being of drug users improved," and all without increased street dealing around Insite.

Too bad most of the proof to back these positive claims come from SIS proponents or the academics who devise harm-reduction theories. Police here, and in Europe (where they have lots of experience with SISs) tell a very different tale.

When Insite applied to have its three-year licence renewed last fall, the RCMP told Health Canada it had "concerns regarding any initiative that lowers the perceived risks associated with drug use. There is considerable evidence to show that, when the perceived risks associated to drug use decreases, there is a corresponding increase in number of people using drugs."
That has certainly been the case in Europe. Currently there are more than three dozen major European cities on record against SISs. Most have had such facilities and closed them because they found that drug problems increased, not decreased.

After an injection site was opened in Rotterdam in the early 1990s, the municipal council reported a doubling of the number of 15- to 19-year-olds addicted to heroine or cocaine. Over the 1990s, the Dutch Criminal Intelligence Service reported a 25% increase in drug-related gun murders and robberies in neighbourhoods housing one of that country's 50 official methadone clinics or addict shelters. Zurich closed its infamous needle park in 1992, after the police and citizenry became fed up with public urination and defecation, prostitution, open sex, panhandling, drug peddling, loud fights and violent crimes.

Since word of the Tories' new strategy began to leak out of Ottawa, the well-meaning people who work at Insite have stepped up their campaign to save their facility, which Ottawa has said must close this fall. We sympathize with these supporters. No doubt, they have genuine concern for their charges, who are troubled souls caught in a downward spiral of abuse, crime, disease and pain.

But as much as we admire the good intentions behind SISs, drug consumption is the wrong business for government to be in. A government that funds safe havens for injecting illegal drugs on one hand will quickly find it is working against its efforts to reduce drug dealing on the other.

© National Post 2007

School Daze, Part LCMVCCM

You can always count on school boards from Das Hinterlandt (Chilliwak-Mission-Abbortsford) to do the ugly thing.

The latest is to punish a child for a political argument the board is having with the boy's mother.

Kids are all going on a field trip to The Big Smoke. Highlights will include the Museum of Anthropology, the planetarium and the aquarium. That's 3 good ums in our book.

But mom refuses to pay the fee. She has the money, but it's a belief thing, a political principal.

Fine, OK. So duke it out with Mom already and leave the kid alone.

No, that would be too Solomonic, too sensible. Instead, let's make the little kid's life a misery, boot him off the bus and get back at Mom that way.

I've heard of hiding behind mother's skirts, but hiding behind Johnny's sneakers?

Thus, we have added to our list of oxymorons (Catholic University, happy marriage, military intelligence, Liquor Control Board) this: "Chilliwack Education."