Thursday, November 13, 2008

Courier's Mark Hsiuk's Excellent Piece on Mayors and Insite

Mr.Robertson's neighbourhood

Future bleak for Mr. Robertson's neighbourhood
Published in the Vancouver Courier: Monday, Nov.10.

This weekend Vancouverites head to the polls to choose our next mayor. On most issues, both candidates-NPA Coun. Peter Ladner and Vision Vancouver hopeful Gregor Robertson-sing off the same song sheet.

But what about the Downtown Eastside? Our city's ugly blight. Our six blocks of shame. Our little election's Iraq war.

Both candidates promise to clean up the neighbourhood in time for the 2010 Olympics. Yet both cling to former NPA mayor Philip Owen's Four Pillars drug strategy, which relies heavily on so-called "harm reduction" to combat addiction and crime. And both believe in the Insite supervised injection site, harm reduction's shining obelisk at 139 East Hastings.

However, Ladner says "no" to more injection sites. One is enough. The Insite model, he says, should not be exported to other areas of the city. But Robertson wants more. He envisions a city teeming with Insites. He supports erecting similar models in yet-to-be-named neighbourhoods, so junkies from Point Grey to Hastings/Sunrise need not travel far for their fix. Possible Robertson campaign slogan: "No fun city? Not for long."

Additionally, during the Courier's mayoral debate in October, Robertson failed to pooh-pooh former COPE Mayor Larry Campbell's idea of a government-funded crack house, where addicts inhale a soul-crushing toxin as nurses hand out shiny new crack pipes to the living dead.
Possible Robertson campaign slogan No. 2. "Team Robertson: we'll try anything once."
Robertson also wants to establish a "roundtable on prostitution," and said he was "not in favour of legalized brothels, at this time."

At this time. Right. How about after you get elected? How about after your roundtable, packed with harm reduction aficionados, calls for indoor "work sites" and a red light district?

Possible Robertson campaign slogan No. 3. "Vote Robertson: they love him in Amsterdam." Simply put, Robertson doesn't get it. The Downtown Eastside requires a cultural revolution, not more government enabling. The seven years since Owen ushered in his Four Pillars strategy have been a disaster. By all accounts, things get worse every day. The open drug market thrives. Chinatown is under siege. Homelessness has doubled, a trend owed not only to a lack of housing but to the Downtown Eastside's courtship of drug users.

Which leads back to Insite. Most Insite users typically shoot up elsewhere at some point during the day. And Insite accounts for less than five per cent of all injections in the neighbourhood. Still, proponents claim Insite reduces overdoses, needle sharing and public injections. But they don't consider the cultural consequences.

Why do people come to the Downtown Eastside? Because that's where the drugs are. Insite removes yet another impediment for drug abuse and surrenders the moral ground to drug dealers. Insite perpetuates a culture of drugs and excess-the two staples of addiction. And as with B.C.'s reckless methadone maintenance program, Insite offers no mandatory treatment. For every heroin addict Insite "helps," countless others are spawned in the dreary environment Insite helps create.

And Robertson wants more. Perhaps he's listened to vocal members of B.C.'s medical community-a viper's nest of harm reduction PhDs. Folks like Dr. Julio Montaner, head of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the "independent third party research and evaluation" organization charged with justifying Insite's existence. Or UBC's Dr. John Hepburn, who helped pen a scolding letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007 after the Conservatives dared question Insite's effectiveness. Hepburn frequently cites the "best interests of patients" in his Insite defense--a revealing statement that embodies the narrow thinking of harm reduction fanatics.

Note to Dr. Hepburn: the Downtown Eastside is not your office waiting room, where patients thumb through back issues of People magazine while waiting for prescriptions. Policies administered in Insite's sterile confines have wide-reaching ramifications that can't be discovered in a UBC laboratory. The neighbourhood is rotting, and we'll never keep up with the destructive results of wanton drug abuse if drug abuse is part of the solution.

So when you hit the polls this Saturday, cast your vote carefully. The fate of many addicted and mentally ill people may hang in the balance. An expansion of harm reduction will expand the Downtown Eastside. Like Obama says, it's time for "Change We Need." Nobody needs more "harm reduction" help from city hall.
Or more accurately, nobody deserves that.


Anonymous said...

Mair's axion #1 - you don't have to be a 10 to win in politics; you need only be a 3 if your competition is a 1.

Grumpy's observation on
Mair's axiom #1; if everyone is a "0", book tickets on the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

I am against insite but for moving car lanes on the Burrard Bridge to bikes.

What to do?