Friday, December 13, 2013
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The British Columbia Supreme Court has effectively thrown out a key provision of Canada's drug law. The Court's decision supports the Insite safe injection facility in Vancouver.The National Post reported on May 28, 2008 ("BC drug injection site legal, court rules") that "The B. C. Supreme Court has thrown the country's drug law into limbo with a ruling that says it conflicts with health concerns that constitutionally are a provincial responsibility, as well as conflicting with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a surprise ruling yesterday, the court supported Vancouver's experimental supervised injection clinic and halted federal attempts to close the facility. Judge Ian Pitfield said Insite should be allowed to remain open for a year even without a federal exemption from current drug laws. The judge declared a key section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) of no force and gave Ottawa until June 30, 2009, to rectify the law because it appears to interfere with medical treatment. Judge Pitfield said the current law governing illicit substances puts "unfettered discretion in the hands of the Minister" and violates the Constitution."
According to the National Post, "In a 59-page decision that reviewed more than a decade's worth of social work on the Downtown Eastside, the judge said drug addicts deserved the same kind of health care as those in the thralls of alcohol or tobacco addiction. Insite was established in September, 2003, as a pilot project to reduce disease, reduce overdose deaths and foster better health care for addicts. More than one million injections have occurred. However, an exemption granted by the federal government for the clinic to operate expired, and the facility has been operating on temporary permits since. The ruling was greeted with near disbelief and euphoria by advocates, who have lobbied for years, first to open the site and then to keep it open."
The National Post reported that "Judge Pitfield concluded the national law blocked addicts from a health care facility that could reduce or eliminate their risk of death from an overdose or from contracting an infectious disease, thereby violating their right to life and security. 'While users do not use Insite to directly treat their addiction, they receive services and assistance at Insite which reduce the risk of overdose that is a feature of their illness, they avoid the risk of being infected or of infecting others by injection, and they gain access to counselling and consultation that may lead to abstinence and rehabilitation,' he said. 'All of this is health care.' Judge Pitfield went on to say the federal law 'forces the user who is ill from addiction to resort to unhealthy and unsafe injection in an environment where there is a significant and measurable risk of morbidity or death.'"