When Science Trumps Policy: The Triumph of Insite

About five months ago I wrote about the situation of Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site where drug addicts could receive clean needles, medical supervision during drug use, and access to drug treatment. I was very concerned as a skeptic that a new form of science based drug policy known as harm reduction was going to be railroaded by an ideological based policy. Fortunately, that was not the case.

You can read my other post to get the back ground in detail, as well as a review of the peer reviewed scientific literature on harm reduction as well as complicated legal battle that Insite was facing.

Plaintiff Dean Wilson Celebrates (picture from CBC.ca)

In case you don’t want to go to that trouble, here is a quick refresher:

Insite was created in Vancouver in 2003 under a special exemption from Canada’s drug trafficking and possession laws under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) This exemption by the Liberal Government of Canada allowed the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the Portland Hotel Society to establish Insite. After this three year exemption from the laws expired in 2006, the Federal Health Minister of the new Conservative Government, extended this by fifteen months.

Fearing that Insite would be closed after that, the Portland Hotel Society and two Insite users, filed a claim with the BC Supreme Court urging them to declare that Insite was the jurisdiction of the province and not the federal government.

The results of this legal battle were:

Insite was allowed to continue on the basis that Canada’s drug trafficking laws violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Insite was also ruled to not be the specific domain of British Columbia.

Both sides appealed the decision. The Conservative Government appealed the ruling that the drug laws violated the Charter and the PHS appealed that Insite should be the specific domain of the province. The government lost their appeal and the PHS eventually won their appeal in January of 2010. This led to the current case in court. The Harper Government has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada that Insite is not exclusively the domain of the province, but the Federal government.

Last Friday the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling on Insite.

The judge ruled that Insite was to receive continued support from the Federal Government that it could not be shut down. It was a tremendous victory for proponents of harm reduction drug policy and a huge relief to all the people who depended on Insite for healthcare in the downtown eastside of Vancouver.

As skeptics we obviously want to see science based medicine and effective methods to improve public health. What this means is that, we skeptics, want to see medicine like vaccines promoted instead of homeopathy; but, we also want to see science based policy as well. What Insite has proven is that the harm reduction policy is working, in fact, working better than the “war on drugs” policy that the Conservative government has been supporting. Since the evidence is pointing to harm reduction being a more effective method of controlling the harmful effects of drug addiction in society, it should follow that harm reduction as a policy gain the support of our government and health care providers.

As I mentioned in my first blog post on this issue, what was really distressing was that the Harper Government wasn’t just arguing against the evidence (saying for instance that it was either wrong or misguided) but actually arguing in spite of the evidence. What they were saying was that, yes, harm reduction appears to be working…but that’s irrelevant because that isn’t the policy we want to use.

Nicole Henry injects morphine (from CBC.ca)

Readers can click on the this link to the Globe and Mail to see a video of Conservative Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq refusing to acknowledge the benefit of Insite and instead reaffirming their traditional approach to drug treatment.

Equally troubling is the willingness to portray this divide along political party lines. Conservative voters could easily be justified in believing that the ruling on Insite will pave the way for decriminalizing drugs and drug trafficking, allowing for an outbreak of constant drug use and addiction. But a science based policy isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a political issue. And acknowledging the effectiveness of harm reduction policy isn’t an endorsement of drug use. As Andre Picard, health correspondent for the Globe and Mail points out:

“The other unfortunate aspect of the Insite battle is that it has focused too much attention on harm reduction to the detriment of other important interventions.

Supervised injection targets a small minority, the sickest of the sick. The threat of prosecution is meaningless in this group and, sadly, treatment options are few. So you try to minimize the harm they can do to themselves and others – for compassionate and economic reasons.

But most addicts do not live on the means streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They live in mainstream society – struggling at work, in school, at home. Most suffer from another form of mental illness.”

The ruling from the Supreme Court doesn’t just leave a tangible “where do we go from here” feeling with relation to drug policy, it also opens the door to some serious legal issues to consider.

The courts ruled that Insite is not the exclusive domain of the Province of British Columbia and that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) does apply to health care. The point of Insite being subject to the jurisdiction of British Columbia was a surprising development in the long legal battle so it’s not that shocking to see it revoked by the Supreme Court. However it does leave an open question to how Provinces will administer health care in the future, especially in situations where a Province faces unique health care challenges that don’t exist elsewhere in the country.

Additionally the ruling that Insite will not be exempt from the CDSA is a puzzling development and I’m not sure exactly how that is supposed to play out.

However, the decision to close Insite was considered “arbitrary” and because of the proven benefits, infringed on Charter rights of people having the right to medical treatment. Consider this quote from the ruling:

“The CDSA grants the Minister discretion in determining whether to grant exemptions.  That discretion must be exercised in accordance with the Charter.  This requires the Minister to consider whether denying an exemption would cause deprivations of life and security of the person that are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.  The factors considered in making the decision on an exemption must include evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates, the local conditions indicating a need for such supervised injection site, the regulatory structure in place to support the facility, the resources available to support its maintenance, and expressions of community support or opposition.”

This is the key piece of the ruling that allows Insite to continue to operate. The Court ruled that given all the of the established scientific evidence that Insite is working and improving the lives of addicts, it would be a violation of their rights as Canadians to remove their access to healthcare. The Court has also made it clear that in order for the Government to deny Insite the right to continue operations, they must prevent evidence that Insite is either in gross violation of the CDSA or failing to live up to its stated mission of improving the lives of addicts.

Based on my understanding of the ruling, because of the demonstrated benefits of Insite and the perceived arbitrariness of the efforts to close it down, the Health Minister is ordered to continue exempting Insite from the CDSA.

“The question in this appeal is whether Insite is exempt from the federal criminal laws that prohibit the possession and trafficking of controlled substances, either because Insite is a health facility within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Province, or because the application of the criminal law would violate the Charter.  For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the CDSA is applicable to Insite, and that the scheme of the CDSA conforms to the Charter. However, the actions of the federal Minister of Health in refusing to extend Insite’s exemption under s. 56 of the CDSA are in violation of s. 7 of the Charter, and cannot be justified under s. 1.  Accordingly, we order the Minister to grant Insite an extended exemption, and dismiss the appeal.”

Insite’s victory is an important step in Canada’s drug policies towards a scientifically informed system. But it has been a costly victory. Legal battles are not cheap and the ruling itself does not make it likely more Insite locations will emerge. It does at least open the door to future consideration of what a better drug policy could look like.

I noticed that this whole discussion of Insite, which involved lawyers, Charter experts, activists, doctors, and politicians was lacking one group who should have been quite vocal: Skeptics.

Hopefully, that will change in the future.

26 Responses to “When Science Trumps Policy: The Triumph of Insite”

  1. Kennedy says:

    A totally anecdotal perspective:

    From the POV of a DTES resident of 2 years (less than one block.from Insite) who worked within a few blocks of where I live for 4 years previous to moving here…

    This used to be a disturbing, even scary, neighbourhood. I began spending a lot of time here in the days before Insite. I did so grudgingly for my job.

    Obviously I don’t feel so distressed by it any more. There are other factors – gentrification from a variety of projects (most notably the Woodwards complex) but several of these developments (including Woodwards) have gone out of their way to not displace the disenfranchised of the DTES, by including high density, social housing as a portion of their footprint.

    The worst of the sadness that comes with the addicted segments of society has drifted further East, but hot spots remain where they always were at Pigeon Park and Carnegie Centre. Overall, even with those places in mind this is a happier place. It is cleaner and even the worst off among us seem less desperate.

    This is of course merely my subjective view, but it doesn’t come from a total vacuum, and I find it hard to ignore the influence of Insite. Hell, even the alleyway behind the injection clinic is an engaging walk in a pleasant sense (to look at great architecture, not a ‘lets look at the crack-freaks’ circus side show) where it used to be a place to avoid.

    I am not afraid to raise my one year old here now. Six years ago I would’ve thought twice about walking in daylight down what is now my own block.

  2. Alex says:

    Two things:

    1. Making drug laws out to be a left-vs-right issue is ridiculous. Not sure if you did it intentionally, but that’s the way it reads.

    2. Harm reduction is not enough, in and of itself, to justify government-sanctioned violation of laws. For instance, setting up a site where serial killers can murder elderly or terminally ill patients who have no living family could be considered “harm reduction”, but I can’t see any rational person supporting it. If we’re going to argue for the continued existence of these clinics, it should be based on the premise that the drug laws themselves are immoral and harmful – not the idea that the government has a responsibility to turn a blind eye to criminal behavior whose harmful effects have been “reduced”.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Reducto ad absurdum.

      Insite was never presented as being “enough” to deal with the drug abuse problem. It was a harm ‘reduction’ strategy.

      You could put a cop on every corner, and you’d not prevent mugging. But you would still prevent some mugging.

      Same goes for insite: you’ll never fully stem the tide of needle-transmitted diseases, or drug-motivated crime with Insite. But you will stop some.

      That it is not an all-sweeping solution seems a myopic reason to oppose harm reduction strategies.

      • Alex says:

        “That it is not an all-sweeping solution seems a myopic reason to oppose harm reduction strategies.”

        See, Composer99, THIS is a straw-man fallacy.

      • Composer99 says:

        Steve:

        While I do not agree that Alex has accurately characterized your reply as a straw man argument, I do think you have misinterpreted his statement on the basis of what was meant by ‘not enough’.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Alex, Composer99 “2. Harm reduction is not enough, in and of itself, to justify government-sanctioned violation of laws”

      You’re opposing harm reduction strategies on a reductionist, absurdist notion, where you liken them to rapists, murderers. Reducto Ad Absurdum.

      I’ll repeat, and for the last time, Insite was never presented as being “enough” to deal with the drug abuse problem. You are quibbling over pedantic details. So lay it out plainly for someone as foolish as I:

      What exactly is your issue with the article?

      • Composer99 says:

        Steve:

        As I see it, Alex is not referring to ‘enough’ in terms of quantity of people suffering from drug abuse/addiction who are succesfully treated.

        Alex is referring to ‘enough’ as in whether the principle of harm reduction is sufficient justification to break the law. ‘Enough’ is being used in a qualitative rather than quantitative sense.

        If I am incorrect in my parsing of Alex’s meaning, I trust Alex will correct me.

        That said, that does not make Alex’s objection any more defensible.

      • Steve Thoms says:

        Composer99: Okay, that’s substantially clearer. Alex’s examples of government sanctioned rape houses and murder huts muddied up his point quite a bit. I assume that your clarification accurately reflects Alex’s argument, which leads me to a bigger point:

        Alex: Why is a known harm reduction strategy not enough to “break the law?” Does it not imply that the law, as it exists, serves to harm more people, and with better scientific knowledge brought to the table, we can amend the law, so as to further prevent harm?

      • Alex says:

        @Steve:

        “Why is a known harm reduction strategy not enough to ‘break the law?’”

        Simple moral grounds. I don’t care if legalized “controlled” rape lowers the murder rate, results in less violent rapes, reduces STD’s and unwanted pregnancies, allows for effective counseling for both victim and abuser, and either leaves the rape-rate unchanged or lowers it – I would still be opposed to it.

        If you would not be opposed to such an arrangement, I don’t think I can explain to you why it would be objectionable. I can talk about why rape is inherently immoral, how harmful it is, and why we should all oppose it, but if you’re of the opinion that simply lowering the amount of damage caused is sufficient reason to create such an arrangement, then we’re destined to disagree. We clearly do not share the same values.

        “Does it not imply that the law, as it exists, serves to harm more people, and with better scientific knowledge brought to the table, we can amend the law, so as to further prevent harm?”

        Maybe, in some circumstances. However, again, in that situation the goal should be to amend or remove the law – not to create exceptions for small areas.

      • Mike says:

        I really think this is apples and oranges here. The safe-injection site involves the government allowing people to harm themselves in a controlled manner. A safe-rape site would involve the government allowing people to harm someone else against their will. Two very different things in my opinion.

        As for the laws, I’m under the impression that the government is interested in arresting the people associated with the trafficking of illegal drugs, and is not interested in jailing the end users. So a rapist would be a prime target for police intervention. But a heroin addict would not.

        So, if in fact there is a law stating that injecting yourself with heroin is a “jailable” offense, then I would agree that law is unjust, but I’m not under the impression that anyone is in fact being jailed in Canada simply for using heroin.

  3. Ethan says:

    @Alex,

    No, drug policy isn’t a right vs left issue. At least it shouldn’t be. However its a fact that it was the Conservatives who have opposed Insite for the expressed reasons that science is irrelevant when making drug policy decisions.

    You’re example is a ludicrous exaggeration of what harm reduction actually is.

    • Alex says:

      Since all past Canadian governments have continued the “war on drugs”, and since no party other than the Rastafarian Party has campaigned on the promise to eliminate or reform the drug laws, it’s pretty obvious that all of them consider science to be irrelevant when it comes to drug policy (including the Rastafarians – their platform isn’t exactly science-based).

      The example is perfectly suitable – it’s intentionally ludicrous and relies on the same “logic” which you employ to justify Insite. Here’s some more examples:

      Have a safe location where rapists can take their victims, so we can make sure they won’t murder them afterwards.

      Children are going to have access to pornography anyway, so let’s have classes in school where they can watch government-approved porn and masturbate while being taught about sexuality.

      You like those any better? If there’s something I’m missing about the concept of “harm reduction”, maybe you can explain it to me?

      Just to be clear – I’m in favor of keeping Insite open, and I’m in favor of reforming the drug laws; I merely object to your reasoning. Take it as constructive criticism rather than a personal insult.

      • Art Tricque says:

        Alex, you are of course free to object to the reasoning. And feeedback and input can be construed as constructive criticism. But it is faulty logic to suggest that just because a line of reasoning can be taken to the extreme, as you have done, that all cases using such reasoning are equivalent, or that because one can conceive of extreme cases that the line of reasoning is flawed. Each case must be examined on its own merit, a test which Insite passes.

      • Dianne Sousa says:

        Alex,

        Yes, there is much that you are missing about the concept of harm reduction. Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has a position paper outlining what harm reduction means in the context of drug use and drug intervention policy.

        http://www.camh.net/Public_policy/Public_policy_papers/harmreductionposition.html

        To show why your examples are way off the mark consider this point from CAMH: “Harm reduction programs and policies must demonstrate that they have the desired impact without producing unacceptable unintended consequences. If its evaluation reveals no support for the reduction of specified adverse consequences, or shows the unintended consequences are too serious, the program should not be considered part of a harm reduction approach and other alternatives should be developed.”

        I suppose that some might consider the violation of drug laws as unacceptable. This is hard to justify in light of the demonstrable harms that result from problematic drug use and the emprically demonstrated benefits from these types of interventions.

        Your examples use behaviours that are radically different than drug use. Serial murderers (how are you going to identify them anyway?) kill people who’s right to not be killed always trumps what a serial murderer might want to do. This is true even if the victims are completely alone on this planet. Giving serial murderers space to kill these people without consequence does not reduce any harm whatsoever – the harm is the murder itself. Murder isn’t aggravated by how many relatives the victim has.

        You said that harm reduction isn’t enough to justify the violation of the law. What would be needed in addition?

        No faulty logic is being employed to justify Insite. Different behaviours require different strategies for suitable control. In some cases this is harm reduction, in other cases (like murder) this is government sanction.

      • Alex says:

        @Dianne

        “You said that harm reduction isn’t enough to justify the violation of the law. What would be needed in addition?”

        You tell me – if I can reduce the harm done to women by rapists, and I can do it by establishing a clinic where rapists are free to engage in their hobby as long as they stay within certain guidelines, would you be ok with that? Would “harm reduction” be enough for you to accept such an institution? If not, what else would you need, in addition?

      • Dianne Sousa says:

        Alex,

        That statement is yours to defend and explain.

        I’m not sure that you read the entirety of what I wrote.

        The rape clinic scenario you propose is not based on the same logic as Insite. Your rape clinic is not harm reduction, primarily because it doesn’t reduce the harm that you would be interested in reducing in the first place.

        Your comparing apples to oranges. Worse, your counterexamples are ridiculous.

      • Alex says:

        @Dianne

        I see no reason to believe that a safe-rape clinic would be any less effective at harm-reduction than a safe-injection clinic. Maybe we should give it a shot?

      • Kim Hebert says:

        If you honestly don’t understand why a “safe”-rape clinic doesn’t at all compare to this, either you are being deliberately obtuse or you are a horrible human being.

  4. Composer99 says:

    Alex:

    I think you are reading too much into Ethan’s criticisms of the Conservative government on this issue.

    The fact of the matter is that the present Conservative government:
    (a) is the government currently sitting in office that is attempting to close down InSite;
    (b) is the government whose ministers are ignoring the evidence of InSite’s effectiveness in making their case.

    If it was a Liberal, NDP, or other government doing the above, then I am sure Ethan would be criticizing said government.

    ========
    General comment:

    I would suggest that the manner in which InSite’s work (and harm reduction policy in general) has been undertaken thus far is a triumph for empiricism in policy-making: in setting up InSite, policy-makers undertook a small-scale experiment to test the effectiveness of harm-reduction policy rather than either (a) not testing the policy and simply declaring it a failure, or (b) rolling out the policy on a large scale (e.g. province- or nation-wide) without testing it first.

  5. Ethan Clow says:

    @Art and Dianne

    Thanks for expanding on this. I would also add that extrapolating murder and rape from drug use is logically impossible. Drug use involves an individual doing potential harm to that individual. Murder and rape involve an individual harming another individual.

    @Composer99

    Yes, I would be as willing to criticize any political party for taking an anti-science stance the way the Conservative government is doing.

    The other interesting aspect is when you look at Insite’s results in context with what other states around the world are doing. Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs, for example. Or the Dutch approach to drug use, decriminalizing the use of cannabis. Both of which have had profound impacts on drug use in those countries.

  6. Composer99 says:

    Alex:

    I submit to you that you need to work on improving your rhetoric. The examples you have given in this thread are not encouraging.

    To whit, your inflammatory comparison of InSite to murder/rape “harm reduction” clinics – which, I might add, I perceive to be similar to the means by which talk-radio hosts attempt to generate outrage – smell strongly of straw.

    • Alex says:

      @composer

      I don’t believe you understand the meaning of the term “straw man fallacy”. Were I to argue that Ethan was in favor of safe-rape clinics, and then proceed to demonstrate why such clinics would be absurd, you would certainly be correct. As I have not done so, your criticism falls short of the mark.

      The issue here is that none of you can explain why the “harm reduction” mantra is sufficient reason to allow criminal behavior relating to drugs, but not criminal behavior relating to rape or other violence. You can’t even rationalize this division (though Dianne tried, and did a rather poor job of it), let alone show that it’s actually rational. Pointing out that you’re engaging in a special-pleading fallacy does not make my argument a “straw man”.

      • Dianne Sousa says:

        Alex,

        I carefully explained to you that your examples simply did not qualify as harm reduction. You use an overly simplistic understanding of harm reduction in your critique. This is the straw man you employ. Harm reduction is rather carefuly designed and evaluated. Yet you seem to miss that.

        From your first comment here it seems that the only way you want to admit that Insite is in fact defensible is if the drug laws are eliminated. Yet, they haven’t been and Insite works. Why the hang up? Are you willing to say no to Insite simply because drug use hasn’t be decriminalized or legalized?

      • Composer99 says:

        Alex:

        I should like you to consider the following two lines of comment.

        First, on criminal behaviour:

        Whistleblowers who release classified or top secret government or private documents to expose wrongdoing are, strictly speaking, engaging in criminal behaviour (this certainly seems to be the case in the United States.

        Civil rights activists who break segregational laws (e.g. the Saudi women who were sentenced to receive lashes for driving) in an effort to highlight the injustice of the laws or agitate for reform are, strictly speaking, engaging in criminal behaviour.

        All the same, people who undertake these activities serve valuable purposes for society. I suggest that InSite follows a similar path as the above in enabling addicts at high risk of ill-health come to grips with their health issues, manage their addictions, and reduce the spread of infectious diseases. I cannot claim to have exhaustively outlined ethical-yet-illegal behaviours.

        Ultimately, I for one hope it will serve as a model for similar sites throughout the country as part of a wider legalization of narcotics – legalization which is easier to justify now that we have empirical evidence showing the effectiveness of harm-reduction methods and the lack of anarchy in the absence of strict enforcement.

        Second, on legal exceptions:

        It should be noted that actions which are otherwise controlled or prohibited are often sanctioned under very specific circumstances.

        For example, certain government employees, in the course of their duties, are allowed to violate traffic rules (e.g. emergency vehicles running red lights when their sirens are running).

        Canadian citizens are exempt from prosecution for assault under certain circumstances (see a discussion on the relevant Criminal Code sections here), although assault itself is of course strictly illegal.

        While the current prohibition on narcotics prevails, InSite can certainly be legitimately viewed as another carefully-controlled exception similar to the ones I have outlined above. Once again, I cannot claim to have exhausted examples of exceptions to otherwise-illegal behaviour.

        With all this said, and of course with Dianne’s comments, I do not see how you can suggest no-one here can justify InSite.

      • Alex says:

        @Composer

        That’s an interesting argument. I would, of course, completely agree that violating laws can be a legitimate response under some circumstances. I certainly won’t claim to have never done so in my life. However, whenever I violate a law, it’s either because I believe that the law is unjust, or because I believe that the circumstances in which I find myself are exceptional enough to warrant breaking a just law. For example:

        – If I smoke a joint, it’s because I want to, and I don’t believe anyone has the right to stop me.
        – If I drive over the speed limit, it’s because I see no reason to follow an arbitrary limit on how fast I can go.
        – If I decide to hire a prostitute (or violate the incredibly immoral buggery laws), I’m happy to ignore the law because I believe that the government has no business dictating how or why consenting adults engage in intercourse.
        – If I violate a confidentiality clause, or reveal classified information, it’s because I feel morally compelled to reveal some bit of information to my countrymen.
        – If I shoot someone who is attempting to kill another person, it’s because I believe that a society function best when we protect each other from random acts of violence.

        None of those things involve a “harm reduction” analysis, nor would the concept of harm-reduction justify my actions in the absence of the reasons which I listed.

        The main bit we agree on is this:

        “Ultimately, I for one hope it will serve as a model for similar sites throughout the country as part of a wider legalization of narcotics – legalization which is easier to justify now that we have empirical evidence showing the effectiveness of harm-reduction methods and the lack of anarchy in the absence of strict enforcement.”

        On that I would agree – however, AGAIN, the end goal there is legalization. In your scenario, harm-reduction isn’t the goal of breaking the law; the end-goal is to repeal the law.

        @Dianne

        Either I’m too stupid to understand your careful explanation, or it wasn’t careful enough. Either way, I don’t see any room for a conversation if you’re just going to keep repeating that I don’t understand “harm reduction”. Sorry. I’ve enjoyed reading many of your articles on this site, and have never had a problem understanding any of them, but I suppose this might be the exception.

        As an addendum, I didn’t say Insite is only defensible if the laws are eliminated. Rather, it’s only defensible if the laws are UNJUST. I’m not sure how you misunderstood that, but I’m happy to clear it up.

  7. proxima_centauri says:

    Alex,

    With all due respect, I don’t believe you understand the law. You argue “Harm reduction is not enough, in and of itself, to justify government-sanctioned violation of laws.”

    The law is not being broken, it is being exercised. Insite is supported by law. The exception given is a LAWFUL exercise of ministerial discretion (the Minister of Health). Harm reduction (in the case of services Insite provides), is a sufficient condition meeting a medical or scientific purpose, or otherwise in the public interest pursuant to S. 56 of the CDSA.

    S. 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) states:
    “The Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister deems necessary, exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor or any class thereof from the application of all or any of the provisions of this Act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest.”

    As you can see, the legal precedent already exists for Ministerial discretion in granting exemptions for facilities like Insite. The issue reached the Supreme Court of Canada when the exemption was revoked or denied re-application.

    One of two issues the Supreme Court of Canada decided was whether the CDSA contravenes the right to life, liberty and security of the person (under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), and if the decision to revoke the exemption under s.56 accords with principles of fundamental justice.

    It was ruled that the Minster needs to make constitutionally based decisions (under the Charter) when granting exemptions under s.56 of the CDSA.

    From the ruling, “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”.

    No laws are being broken as far as I can tell.

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  • Ethan Clow

    Ethan Clow, born and raised in the Vancouver area, is best known in the skeptical community as Ethan the Freethinking Historian, co-host of Radio Freethinker, a skeptical podcast and radio show on CiTR in Vancouver. And as the former Executive Director of the Centre for Inquiry Vancouver. Ethan graduated with a B.A. in History from UBC in the fall of 2009 and has an active role with skeptical movements in Vancouver and British Columbia. He was an executive member of the UBC Freethinkers, a campus club that promotes skepticism and critical thinking. He still maintains a close relationship with the UBC Freethinkers and helps plan events and organizes skeptical activism as best he can. Currently he works for the Centre for Inquiry as the Executive Director of CFI Vancouver.