Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me opportunity to speak to this bill, which seeks to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Before I begin, I would like to commend my colleague for Vancouver East for her excellent work on this file. She has worked tirelessly, and I believe we should recognize that her efforts have contributed to the progress our country has made in this regard.
This bill is an attempt to close down supervised injection sites. This would go against a Supreme Court ruling that recognized Vancouver's InSite, currently the only site in Canada, as a key player in this field, an indispensable stakeholder when it comes to public health and safety.
Decisions of this kind that have such a direct impact on public health and safety must not be taken lightly. They must be based on fact, not driven by ideological positions that stem solely from the belief that there should not be any drugs in Canada. I understand the principle here and there is something to be said for it, but that is not how things work. There are many things that we would gladly dispense with but that are still around. At some point what we need to do is deal with the situation. We need to set up sites where these individuals will receive support and maybe even find solutions to overcome their addiction and mitigate its harmful effects.
I used to be a social worker. I worked not with addicts but with young people. I can therefore say that the solution does not lie with repressive measures or scare tactics about drug use. I really do not agree with the Conservative government’s ideology.
The benefits of a safe injection site have been borne out by the facts. There are benefits to operating this type of facility. Studies on more than 70 injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown that these sites have a positive impact on people, communities and drug addicts.
I mentioned harm mitigation. It is impossible to eliminate all the harmful effects but, by adopting this type of philosophy, harm can be mitigated. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I for one believe that this is a sensible approach.
Vancouver’s InSite is currently the only facility of its kind in Canada. However, other cities have plans for sites that they want to set up.
Earlier, in response to certain members opposite who asked whether we wanted to see injection sites in our own ridings, my colleague from Hochelaga stated that she would welcome such a site in her Montreal riding. The need for such sites is overwhelming. The health and safety of Canadians and communities depend on it.
Safe injection sites save lives and it would be highly irresponsible of the government to take steps to prevent such facilities from opening in the future.
Bill C-2 is seriously flawed. It is based on an unrealistic anti-drug ideology and on false concerns over public safety. In my view, it is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the Conservatives' “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign. However, when heroin has already found its way into our community, it is rather difficult to eradicate it unless this type of recourse is available.
The bill will make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites and will have the adverse effect of promoting the return of heroin to our neighbourhoods. Drugs are illegal, and we are well aware of it. I know that I do not have the right to walk around with heroin, but a lot of people will do it, just the same. If we only had to legislate on an issue for it never to happen again, life would be very easy. However, this is not the way things work.
Basically, Bill C-2 goes directly against the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision that called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites, in an effort to reconcile health and public safety considerations. In its ruling, the court urged the minister to consider all of the evidence in light of the benefits of supervised injection sites, rather than devise a long list of principles on which to base his decisions.
There is no safe injection site in my riding. However, there is one agency, the Centre d'intervention jeunesse des Maskoutains—it does not work just with young people—which does a lot of work on harm reduction, primarily through needle exchanges and awareness programs. It does not take them into care. The workers meet with people who have a drug problem and give them a helping hand. In my view, safe injection sites can also play this role.
As I said earlier, at the moment, no injection sites are open in Canada with the exception of InSite, in Vancouver, which has been running since 2003. Since it opened, there has been a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. That is quite significant. It is also been noted that InSite has led to a decrease in crime, communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. It also gives drug users a helping hand toward recovery. It is not a place where people go to inject drugs and to party. It is not anything like that. It is a place where people who want help can go. This also helps make our communities a safer place. I do not think these are elements that can be ignored.
As I said earlier, supervised injection sites reduce the risk of contracting and spreading communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. They also help prevent overdose-related deaths. It has also been shown that they pose no threat to public safety. On the contrary, they promote public safety by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour and drug-related waste. Personally, I would rather have an injection facility in my neighbourhood than see my child going off to play in the park and getting pricked accidentally by a syringe. Injection sites do not reduce the risk to zero but do reduce it significantly.
I would like to explain what a supervised injection site is all about and provide some information about how InSite operates.
In order to use the services of InSite, users must be at least 16. They must sign a user agreement and comply with a code of conduct. They cannot be accompanied by children. InSite is open seven days a week and has 12 injection bays. Users bring their own drugs and staff provide them with clean injection equipment. Nurses and staff supervise the centre and provide emergency medical assistance if necessary. Users who have completed an injection are assessed by staff and taken to a post-injection lounge or treated by a nurse in the treatment room for injection-related conditions.
As members can see, this type of facility is a serious initiative. In my view, these facilities are essential to the well-being of our communities.