Supporting Insite

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 was first introduced in June 2013, a little over a year ago, as Bill C-65 and came back to the House as Bill C-2 in October.

     I am proud of the fact that about 50 members of the NDP caucus have spoken to this important legislation. However, I am ashamed to say that what we have heard from the government side is divisive debate. From day one the Conservatives have portrayed the issue of respecting the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on safer injection sites in Canada as a black and white issue.

    I go back to January 27 of this year when the government House leader told the Hill Times that he will tell people that opposition parties want drug injection sites to be established in their neighbourhoods without people having any say. He then talked about the extreme position that the NDP was taking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    For the government House leader to portray our discourse on this legislation in that manner shows first, how the Conservatives like to create division and fear among people, and second, that they know absolutely nothing about North America’s only safe inject site, which is located in Vancouver’s downtown east side and called Insite. The fact is that Insite was set up over 10 years ago after extensive consultation with the local community.

    The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Insite and other supervised injection sites must be granted Section 56 exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act when they “decrease the risk of death and disease and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety”.

    Upon reading the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada it is clear that it understood the arguments that were being made by the litigants, that this was a health measure, that it was about saving lives and that it was about preventing people from needless drug overdoses. Over the past 10 years, Insite has gone on to become incredibly successful and has helped improve the health and well-being of many people. It has saved literally countless lives in the downtown east side.

    Over 30 peer review studies have been done on Insite. It received its first exemption in 2003. From the extensive research that has been done since it opened, Vancouver has seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, Insite has been shown to decrease crime and communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. That is quite remarkable. NDP members have always said that Insite is just part of the solution; it is not the only solution.

    It is quite remarkable that this facility has been able to accomplish so much. One would never know that after hearing the speeches from government members. One would think it was just about chaos and law and order, that it was about imposing something on a community.

     Insite did get a further exemption under the act for another year.

    I want to put firmly on the record that Insite has done a remarkable job in Vancouver.

    I would also note that over those 10 years, organizations, like the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association, never mind the 30 plus peer review studies, have all come out firmly on the side of evidence that Insite is about saving lives. They came to this conclusion upon their analysis of how Insite is operated. They have been critical of Bill C-2 because they know, as we know having examined the bill, that it is really about setting the bar high. Because so much discretion and subjectivity is given to the minister it would be very easy for her on flimsy, non-evidence-based opinion to turn down other applications across Canada.

    That is the fundamental problem with this legislation. At the end of the day, Bill C-2 would not meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on Insite.