Today, as I stood in the grand, marble hall of the Supreme Court of Canada, awaiting the decision on Insite, my thoughts were back at Main and Hastings, knowing that many folks were gathered there, very early in the morning, to await this important decision.
When we heard the decision I felt an enormous sense of relief and victory. I listened to Dean Wilson, one of the two original plaintiffs, who went before the assembled media and poured his heart out about what Insite meant to him and drug users, former and current. He told quietly about how Insite helped him in his recovery. He spoke about the years of struggle it has taken to reach this important decision.
I also thought about the thousands of people who have died needlessly of drug overdoses and the people who helped the campaign to get Insite open and stay open.
It is a great victory legally. It is also a victory for the rights of drug users and the huge challenge they took on to speak out with courage, hope, and for access to basic health safety and support.
I remember the day in 1997 when 1000 wooden crosses were put up in Oppenheimer Park to symbolize the deaths of so many people who have died overdoses. I came to Ottawa that summer as a newly elected MP with the knowledge and responsibility of the impact of these deaths and the criminalization of drug users who were being left in misery and distress.
It became a mission to take this issue on and challenge the status quo. Always, it was the voice of the drug users themselves, who propelled the issue forward. People like Bud Osborn, Ann Livingston, Earl Crow, Melissa Eror, Mark and Liz, Dr. Montana, Evan Wood, Thomas Kerr, Donald McPherson, and so many more, who dedicated themselves to the idea that human rights, and decency was the first order, thus challenging conventional views on archaic drug laws.
I will remember this day – and know that when people are together, things can change and at the highest Court in Canada, those who are least heard were heard.