This bill is a direct attack on supervised injection sites. Once again, we are faced with a government that uses every possible means to impose its political ideology at the expense of the broad social consensus and the positive effects of supervised injection sites.
We must remember that the Conservative government's bill challenges the Supreme Court decision and is just another way for the government to get what it wants and to put its moral values ahead of the lives of the most vulnerable Canadians.
We feel that all new legislation on supervised injection sites must respect the spirit of the Supreme Court decision. The 2011 decision reminds us, among other things, that Vancouver's InSite—the only safe injection site in Canada—has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area. It is also important to note that the police, local businesses and the chamber of commerce support those types of projects.
Evidence has shown that supervised injection sites effectively reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and reduce deaths from overdoses. Evidence has also shown that these sites do not negatively affect public safety and that, in certain cases, they promote it by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour, and drug-related waste.
Supervised injection sites make it possible to strike the appropriate balance between public health and public safety. They also connect people in urgent need of health care with the services they need, such as primary health care and drug treatment services. Those are quantitative and qualitative facts that describe a reality, not an ideology.
We believe that harm reduction programs, including supervised injection sites, must be granted exemptions based on the evidence that they will improve public health and save lives, not based on ideology. Pragmatism and humanitarianism must be the two principles underlying the reality of drug use, a reality that goes against our moral values. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives do not feel that this debate in the House is useful and that they prefer to have the conversation by themselves.
In order to clearly understand the purpose of supervised injection sites, one has to take an interest in the people who need the service and remember that they have rights and that we have responsibilities toward them. Drug consumption has significant effects on people's lives, including debt, a breakdown in communication with friends and family, isolation, crime, medical problems and stigmatization. We need to support these people, not send them to prison. We must support them, not exclude them. They need to be given an anchor so that they can regain control of their lives, not left adrift without a purpose while we turn a blind eye to their problems.
Supervised injection sites are an innovative response to the expectations of an advanced and enlightened society. The philosophy of harm reduction gives priority to the personal and social management of drugs and high-risk behaviours and their negative consequences.
It is therefore important to have a pragmatic dialogue and approach. In other words, we need to look at the situation with a critical eye and assess the social costs and benefits of our laws and practices for humanism, which places human development at the heart of economic, environmental, political and social decisions.
What is more, the Supreme Court's 2011 ruling warned the government against any law that would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The discretion vested in the Minister of Health is not absolute: as with all exercises of discretion, the Minister’s decisions must conform to the Charter. If the Minister’s decision results in an application of the CDSA that limits the s. 7 rights of individuals in a manner that is not in accordance with the Charter, then the Minister’s discretion has been exercised unconstitutionally. In the special circumstances of this case, the Court should go on to consider whether the Minister’s decision violated the claimants’ Charter rights. The issue is properly before the Court and justice requires that it be considered.
What is more, in this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the charter guarantees Canadians the right to access supervised injection sites and that such services should generally exist when the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
A 2004 study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction indicated that supervised injection sites reach out to vulnerable groups and are accepted by communities. That is what social acceptance is. The study also showed that these sites improve the health of their users, reduce high-risk behaviour, and reduce fatal overdoses and the consumption of drugs in public places.
Canadians do not understand the Conservative government's lack of empathy towards citizens living with this difficult reality, and the dearth of recognition and support it shows towards organizations working day after day to improve the well-being of those citizens.
Canadians see a government that imposes a course opposite to that recommended by various qualified stakeholders working with safe injection sites.
Bill C-2 will establish a process that is so burdensome that it may well deter applicants from even trying to open a safe injection site.
What would happen if an applicant should accidentally forget to include something? Could the application be turned down automatically? Even if an applicant had all the required documents and the full support of the community, it would still be possible for the minister to deny the application.
It is important to remember that a number of projects are on hold in major Canadian cities and that Bill C-2 is an obstacle to their implementation.
Speaking about safe injection sites, on June 7, Dr. Richard Massé, the director of public health for Montreal, said in Le Devoir:
…These services save lives. It is too early to say what will happen, but… [this bill] appears to me to create significant barriers, even though the Supreme Court clearly said that not providing these services was a violation of human rights.
Also in Le Devoir, the Canadian Medical Association said it sees a bill that is built on ideology. As to the objection that establishing a place where drugs obtained from illegal sources are consumed could cause a lot of harm in the community, Quebec's health minister says that the studies that have been conducted on the subject do not bear that out. He said that the bill should be studied further, specifically with the justice minister of Quebec.
Many groups are concerned about this bill that challenges the Supreme Court decision. It is designed as a way to undermine the court's decision and to find another way to close safe injection sites because they go counter to this government's ideology.
Why do the Conservatives not simply admit what this bill is about? What are the real reasons behind the bill? How far are the Conservatives prepared to go to jeopardize health, safety and the dignity of human life and when are they going to admit that this bill really is based on ideology?