DTES, elections, Human Rights, politics, Vancouver

How Vancouver’s supervised illegal drug injection site is winning the PR battle

Vancouver’s Insite is making headlines again as a new study shows it has slashed fatal overdoses in Canada’s poorest postal code. With the federal government’s appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court this May, the program’s future is once again in jeopardy. Here are my thoughts after visiting the controversial injection site.

Photos courtesy of Vancouver Coastal Health

After touring Insite this week it is clear the operators are doing their best to win over the hearts and minds of Canadians skeptical of the harm reduction approach to drug addiction.

First-time visitors immediately notice the cleanliness, professionalism and transparency of the supervised injection site. In the main room, stainless steel shelves form 12 open booths that together service up to 1,000 users a day. The smell of cleaning supplies wafts through the Spartan rooms as site manager Darwin Fisher holds court.

Fisher is passionate about giving the addicts of Canada’s poorest postal code a voice in their own recovery. This method of mitigating the harmful conditions surround their addiction, and then allowing them to get the treatment they need seems to be working.

A recent study released by the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, pointed to harm reduction services like Insite as helping lower the rate of HIV infections among injection drug users.

In a news release about the report Kendall said, “The recent decline in new HIV cases is encouraging, especially since a significant decrease has been seen amongst vulnerable populations like those who use injectable drugs. This decrease is more proof that Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy and other harm reduction services are working and should be expanded.”

In fact, every empirical study of infection rates among the people in the Downtown Eastside has come out in favour of Insite and its work. When talking to the media, Fisher wields these numbers like a sword in the face of a federal government hell-bent on shutting the service down.

Insite is as transparent as an entity run by three separate bodies can be. It is this transparency and an emphasis on empirical data that has been more effective in swaying public and political opinion than any preaching about the horrible circumstances of these addicts ever could.

Most taxpayers do not want to hear about the sad tales of abuse and trauma that precede a person’s gradual descent into the hell of addiction. What is much more important is the amount of money it costs to get a person off the street and into treatment. The amount of money it costs to process and care for a person with a skin infection from shooting up in the dank, dark and dirty alleyways of the Downtown Eastside.

Concrete numbers about the amount of money it is saving taxpayers are the best way Insite can gain further support, and perhaps one day expand their brand of harm reduction nationwide.

It may be a callous way to reach out for support, but Insite’s advocates know its $3 million annual oprating budget is miniscule compared to the overalls of illegal drug use.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse found, in a 2002 study, abuse of illegal druges like heroin cost Canadians $8.2 billion annually. Along with alcohol and tobacco, illegal drug abuse cost taxpayers $8.8 billion in health care and $5.4 billion in policing this abuse.

Former mayor Larry Campbell helped get the initiative off the ground, and ever since these positive numbers have come in, civic and provincial politicians have taken note. Today, these politicians are loath to criticize Insite’s effectiveness in curbing infection and costly health problems in drug-addicted people.

Federally, things are much different. Initially the Martin government begrudgingly supported the facility, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has fought tooth and nail to stop the money flow.

In order to fully understand the work of Insite, Harper should heed last year’s call of the B.C. Nurses’ Union and visit the facility himself.

Then, and only then, can he pass judgment on its role in Canadian society.

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elections, Honduras coup, NarcoNews, Zelaya

>Honduran President Zelaya’s Letter to the Presidents of the Hemisphere

>(Ed. Note: With Honduras’ “elections” coming up this Sunday President Mel Zelaya, still cornered in the Tegucigalpa’s Brazilian Embassy by the troops of the de facto regime, wrote an open letter to the Presidents of the Hemisphere and CCed it to the heads of the UN, Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU. Although somewhat verbose Zelaya spells out the illegality of the coup regimes actions as well as what he hopes for from leaders in the region. Here is the translation courtesy of NarcoNews, one of the last bastions of true  authentic journalism left in the hemisphere.)

PRESIDENT ZELAYA’s Letter to the Presidents of the Hemisphere
http://www.narconews.com/Issue62/article3950.html

The Narco News Bulletin
Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
November 24, 2009 | Issue #62

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“Legalizing Coups d’Etat by Means of Spurious Electoral Processes Divides the Unity of the Nations of América”
A Letter to the Presidents of the Hemisphere

By Manuel Zelaya Rosales
President of Honduras
November 22, 2009

Honorable Presidents
Nations of América

Dear Presidents,

I write you in my role as President of Honduras, valuing the excellent relations between our countries and in defense of the democracy violated in Honduras as consequence of the Military Coup d’Etat perpetrated June 28 of this year, when soldiers invaded my home and at gunpoint kidnapped and took me to Costa Rica.

The National Congress forged my resignation letter and, abusing its power, emitted an illegal decree which “separated me from the charge of Constitutional President” without Constitutional backing to do so. The same was the case for the arrest order that the Court had emitted without having received any legal complain and without my having been cited to appear before any tribunal or trial. It has been condemned and described by all the countries of the world as a violent and surprising rupture of democratic order, a Military Coup d’Etat.

At this moment in Honduras we are in a de facto State. There is no Constitution. Nor are there Constitutional powers because they have been destroyed by force by the military Coup d’Etat on that ominous day of June 28, 2009.

The Constitution of the Republic establishes in Article 3: “No one owes obedience to an usurper government, nor to those who occupy public positions or jobs by the force of weapons or using means or procedures that bankrupt or fail to recognize what the Constitution and the law establishes. Those actions by so-called authorities are null and void. The people have the right to insurrection to defend the Constitutional order.”

In reading that article, you can understand that the Honduran people are legally empowered to act using all means, styles and forms that they consider necessary to restore democracy. We have consciously taken the path of peaceful resistance, with the goal of establishing noncooperation and nonviolence like methods of civil disobedience and twenty-first century popular struggle against the rise of military force.

We thank the entire international community for your support for our labor to reconstruct the State of Law, that being the last effort of the poorly reached Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, backed by the OAS and the US Department of State. Its letter and spirit has as its proposal the “return of the title the executive branch to what it was prior to June 28.” And it was openly violated by the de facto regime which in which Mr. Micheletti pretends to head a government of reconciliation, refusing to convene the National Congress, in definitive noncompliance of the timeline and text.

Now, unilaterally, he seeks to utilize the aborted accord by convening the National Congress on December 2, a date upon which the political actors of the accord will have been substantially modified, in the sense that by then they will have already been submitted to the opinion ofthe voters without having restored Constitutional order.

The elections of November 29 and their use of public funds under a de facto regime, without having previously restored democracy and the State of Law as OAS and UN resolutions demand, without even having installed the government of unity and reconciliation, are illegal, illegitimate, and constitute a criminal act.

At the moment that the de facto regime with its soldiers convenes a spurious electoral process under repression, without legal guarantees, and without a political agreement, in which the military dictatorship is the guarantor of the law, it only strengthens its actions of force and impunity.

Precisely today, Channel 36, property of journalist Esdras Amado López, the only television chain that has opposed the regime, has had its signal blocked and taken off the air by the dictatorship.

The de facto regime has frontally disregarded the resolutions of the OAS, the UN and the European Union. It has also violated the Democratic Charter of the OAS and its resolutions while some of Honduras’ friends among countries demonstrate ambiguity and support for the electoral process without having restored democratic order and without political dialogue. That permits the de facto regime to impose its will by force.

As President of Honduras, I communicate with you to say that below these conditions I will not back the electoral process and will proceed to challenge it legally in the name of the men and women of my country and of hundreds of community leaders that suffer the loss of democracy, the repression, the unfair circumstances and the suppression of freedom.

These elections have to be annulled and rescheduled to when the sovereign will of the people is respected.

In these difficult moments for our brother countries of América, we ask for your solidarity with Honduras.

* That you accompany us based on the facts that you know, reiterating the position of not supporting a unilateral intent to give validity to an accord that was quickly rescinded by the violations consummated by the dictatorship.
* Reaffirming the condemnation of the coup d’etat of the military State and not supporting a de facto regime whose existence today shames all the peoples of Latin América Latina, that after all the attempts by the international community to reverse the coup d’etat have ended in a total failure for everyone.
* Appealing to maintain your firmness in the execution of the resolutions passed by the OAS and the UN and not adopting ambiguous and imprecise positions like those displayed today by the government of the United States of America, with whose final posture has weakened the process of reversing the coup d’etat, demonstrating division in the international community. By feeding this coup d’etat the democratic security in the hemisphere and the stability of the Presidents of América is put at risk, with the resurgence of military castes over civil authority. Legitimizing coups d’etat by means of spurious electoral processes divides and does not contribute to the unity of the nations of América.
* I ask for your cooperation so that this Military Coup d’Etat its bloody violations of human rights do not go unpunished. Already, the International Criminal Court has received complaints and allowed them to proceed to trial to obtain justice for our people and apply the corresponding sanctions to those who committed treason to the Nation and crimes against humanity in Honduras.
* We voice our energetic rejection of those who support the maneuvers to launder the coup d’etat, covering up for the golpistas to leave their crimes protected.
* With our full attention, we invite all the nations to recognize our government and that they abstain from supporting the actions of the illegal regime that usurped power by force of weapons.
* We cordially demand and exhort your representatives to the OAS and the UN to continue defending and supporting the rights of the people and of the legitimately elected governments, since when one of our nations suffers an assault it is an affront to all América; and, each time a government elected by the peoples of América is toppled, violence and terrorism win and Democracy suffers a defeat.

In wait of your response, I appreciate the invaluable support demonstrated until now for these principles and I send you greetings reiterating my esteem and my highest consideration.

JOSE MANUEL ZELAYA ROSALES
President of the Republic of Honduras

cc: Sr. José Miguel Insulza, Secretario General de la OEA
Sr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretario General de la ONU
Sr. José Barroso, Comisión Unión Europea
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Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español – http://www.narconews.com/Issue62/articulo3950.html
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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America

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