I'm glad to be here, but I came with some trepidation, being the only person at the table who is not all for this whole philosophy. But that's well known. While I've had similar treatment in some ways, at least my life hasn't been threatened yet.
I want to speak to the broader agenda and point out a few things for the committee, especially for those whose minds are not made up, especially for the elected representatives who should be setting drug policy with the people. I'll speak to you.
I was the author of one of three academic papers that all said essentially the same thing. I was embarrassed as a professional and as a graduate of UBC by the poor science and the misuse of data. It was allowed to stand in the media without correction. The media was making very positive, glowing statements without evidence.
The most telling thing I saw that never found its way into the media was that only a small percentage of drug users use Insite. It's not reaching the cocaine users. An even smaller portion use it for the majority of their injections. As I told CNN, it's like building a dyke out of chicken wire.
Why, then, is this still being clung to? I believe it's because it was never intended to be just a trial. In the year 2000, a Health Canada meeting in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, said, “The future of harm reduction among injection drug users lies with safe injection sites and drug maintenance programs”. In science, that's called coming to conclusions and then making everything fit.
From the body of people involved with Insite, you will not hear anything negative. I believe it's part of a larger thing that has had negative effects on treatment and prevention.
In the work I did, I found that the principal impact of Insite and the establishment of its parent philosophy, harm reduction, is that it has produced a void in incidence-reducing prevention. Whatever else anybody says, there is no incidence-reducing prevention. The program being worked on in Vancouver is a harm reduction program for high school students.
I've heard only criticism of primary prevention. One of the leaders said that prevention makes users feel deviant, while harm reduction makes them feel respected. As with many of these statements, that is very misleading.
There has been no expansion or innovation in treatment in Vancouver. There are people who aren't here because they would be intimidated and lose funding. They have told me that. They've said they have been told to stop asking for more treatment beds or they will lose their funding. The cost of $40 a day for a client hasn't changed in 40 years. “By their fruits ye shall know them”. I don't understand why treatment has languished, other than that there's not really a valuing of it.
It's on a collision course with enforcement. You will soon be hearing calls for changing the drug laws. It's wrapped up together. We're hearing it today. Public proponents of drug policy reform in the form of legalizing and regulating drugs include many policy-makers and advisors at the provincial and federal levels. They leave little doubt they want to change the drug laws.
I want to say to Mr. Owen, respectfully, that enforcement and treatment and prevention do work if they are used properly. Enforcement has operated largely through sanctions. The incidence of illegal drug use is only a tiny fraction of that of legal drugs, and the costs are less than half, even including enforcement costs. Why would we want to change that?
Simply put, Insite and its parent philosophy make the assumption that we can control outcomes in a free population without getting people off drugs. I've been called many names on this. There's a real intolerance of other views that makes me sad. I believe if you look into it you will see that many of the people involved with Insite are themselves involved in a broader movement. There are people in this room who've been given awards by the Lindesmith Center and the Soros Foundations for their work in drug policy reform and who have publicly called the drug laws the Berlin Wall.
These people have called me and people like me ideologues and themselves scientists. To such views they're entitled, but the assertion is made frequently by Insite supporters that they are following science; that the government ideology is hypocritical and false, and so is the unilateral engineering of policy.
I call on the committee, especially the elected representatives, to stop allowing a group of activists, whatever else they're clothed in, to dictate Canada's drug policies. The people of Canada--