Mr. Speaker, I just want to say how shameful it is that the Conservatives are not standing up to take part in the debate on Bill C-2. As my colleague just pointed out, their position is indefensible.
This is an important debate about saving lives by giving people in need access to care and referrals to drug treatment options. This debate is about a very important public health and public safety issue: setting up supervised injection sites.
I would like to begin my speech with some quotes from a feasibility study for such a site in Montreal. The study was conducted in 2011 by the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal. The tone and the word choices paint a very accurate picture of what supervised injection sites do:
Supervised injection services are medical and nursing services provided in response to addiction, which is a disease. In countries where these services are legal, they are offered in places where injection drug users can inject drugs they bring in themselves in a clean and safe environment, under the supervision of qualified medical, nursing and psychosocial staff.
What are the goals of these sites? I quote:
...to help prevent diseases and deaths among people who inject drugs, and to reduce social inequalities in health that affect one of society's most vulnerable groups.
Earlier, members talked about compassion and helping people who need resources and tools. That is what the government should be doing, but the Conservatives either do not understand or they have decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.
Anyone who wants to understand what supervised injection sites do has to understand what drug addiction is and what patients suffering from the disease go through. It just so happens that drug addicts consume substances deemed illegal, but they are still people with a disease. More than anything else, they need help.
Any government that cannot understand that basic need for care and help cannot create public health legislation. Unfortunately, that is what is happening now with Bill C-2.
This bill is the result of the Conservatives' ideological war against drug addicts. It is not based on science or facts, but rather on ignorance and fear. Earlier we were accused of being soft on crime and soft on heroin. On the contrary, supervised injection sites provide a safe, secure and supervised place for users, while the Conservatives would rather send all these people into the streets, with no resources and without any chance of being referred to health care professionals.
The New Democrats cannot help but be opposed to this witch hunt. This is not the Middle Ages. This is a modern, advanced society with experts who can help the people who need help.
The Conservatives' war on the InSite supervised injection site in Vancouver and others has been going on for years. In 2003 InSite received an exemption to operate for medical and scientific purposes under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. More than 30 scientific studies have confirmed that InSite has positive effects on patients and public health.
In Europe and Australia, 70 similar injection sites have seen the same positive results. I do not know what other evidence the Conservatives need. There have been 30 scientific studies on 70 sites around the world.
In 2008, when the site had been operating successfully for five years, the Conservative government set out on a crusade against InSite. It refused to renew the site's exemption and spent thousands of dollars in court, but every court ruled in favour of the medical centre.
The B.C. Supreme Court, the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada all said that the centre should remain open. The Supreme Court was very clear: the minister's decision to close InSite violated the charter rights of the centre's clients. Here is what the court had to say about the decision:
It is arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the CDSA, which include public health and safety.
Who is soft on crime? I do not think those of us on this side of the House are. This quote was from the Supreme Court of Canada.
With Bill C-2, the government sets out the new criteria to establish a supervised injection site. Some of these criteria are reasonable, but others seem to indicate that the government will use this legislation to close such sites. Moreover, the sheer number of criteria is enough to deter people from launching a project before they even begin. The number of criteria is really high.
These criteria are basically new ammunition for the Conservatives' ideological war against addicts. This is also a way to shape people's minds through fear. Bill C-2 requires proof of the project's acceptability to the community. That is fine. However, this will have to be done with all the necessary medical and psychosocial information. When people are well informed, they support such initiatives.
However, I suspect that the government will once again resort to ignorance and fear, rather than education and public health. How can we trust it when it has been fighting for years to close InSite, a decision that flies in the face of the Supreme Court's position? Did the government even read the scientific studies confirming the results achieved with these supervised injection sites? People who use these sites are almost twice as likely to enter a detox program.
There is a significant drop in the number of discarded needles on the streets. As I mentioned, there are fewer people shooting up on the streets. There is less crime and less violence. Consequently, there should be less fear about the Conservatives' claims whenever they talk about heroin on the streets.
The drop in needle sharing reduces the transmission of HIV-AIDS. More importantly, supervised injection sites help improve the health of people who use them and lower the number of overdose deaths. Even though people's lives are at stake and studies show that crime decreases, the Conservatives deny this and only talk about crime.
This approach is pragmatic and humane. It is based on compassion for people with addictions and respect for their rights, including their right to life and their right to be treated like any other citizen. This medical approach has proven effective, unlike the coercive and repressive approach proposed by the Conservative government.
Repression has only had negative and deplorable effects for decades. Criminalizing drug use gives power to the Mafia and street gangs. We must talk about both public health and public safety because they go hand in hand. By criminalizing substance abuse, we force people struggling with this problem to live on the margins of society. By contrast, if we treat them, we help them overcome their addictions. Fewer drug users also means less crime and less power for the underworld.
Would we rather focus on medical science or ignorance, on compassion or fear? What moral values do we want to teach our children? Do we want to teach them to pass judgment on a sick individual or to help that person? Do we want to base our judgments on facts or ideology?
Canada is held up as an example for its universal health care system. Our system is based on respect for universal rights, including the right to life, health and safety. By restricting access to supervised injection sites, the government is denying patients their right to be treated and receive care. This is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Supervised injection sites that have done well work with the community. That is the case with Vancouver's InSite. Effective mechanisms are put in place to promote cohabitation, patients must comply with a code of conduct and the site co-operates with the police, the public and various community organizations.
The Conservatives should be ashamed of inciting public fear and making up information that is not based on scientific data or studies. Instead, they should look at the studies and the Supreme Court decision supporting an exemption for a facility such as InSite.
They should co-operate with the opposition parties, with the NDP, which feels that policies should be based on facts, not ideologies. Crime reduction programs, including supervised injection sites, should be evaluated based on their ability to improve public health and safety.