News / Vancouver

Harm reduction ‘back on the table’ with Trudeau win

Insite pioneers say government open to more supervised injection services now that the Tories are gone.

File photo: Client of the Insite supervised injection center in Vancouver, Canada, injects himself on May 3, 2011.

Laurent Vu The/AFP/Getty Images

File photo: Client of the Insite supervised injection center in Vancouver, Canada, injects himself on May 3, 2011.

A Liberal majority government will open the door for more supervised injection sites across Canada, according to Larry Campbell.

The Liberal senator was Vancouver’s mayor when Insite became the first supervised injection site in North America.

It remains the only facility of its kind (although the Dr. Peter Centre also provides injection services for clients), thanks to Stephen Harper’s repeated failed attempts to shut it down through the courts and legislation making it almost impossible for other cities to adopt a similar model.

But with a clear Justin Trudeau election night victory, the battle between evidence-based harm reduction and ideology is over, said Campbell.

“I think we’ll see harm reduction back on the table,” Campbell told Metro on Tuesday. “Insite wasn’t going anywhere, they won that battle. Two million injections and no deaths, the evidence is there. It’s a win for communities that wanted it as [Conservatives] made it impossible to build supervised injection sites anywhere else.”

Hedy Fry, the re-elected Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, said her party was a key partner in the Vancouver Agreement that led to Insite.

There would have been more had the Liberals not lost control of Ottawa, she said.

“[Insite] was the beginning of evidence-based decision making. It worked. The sad thing is in those nine years, a lot of people died,” said Fry. “Justin [Trudeau] said very clearly that he will ensure any community that wants to set up a supervised injection site will be able to.”

Victoria, Ottawa and Montreal are prime candidates, she said.

Vancouver may not be done either.

Vancouver Coastal Health’s second-generation Downtown Eastside strategy talks about the need to strengthen Insite’s service and to also integrate supervised injections into other community services.

Now that the Liberals have won a surprise majority, VCH medical health officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn said the health authority may have to go back to the drawing board with renewed optimism.

“We didn’t really expect this,” admitted Lysyshyn. “There was supposed to be a Canadian drug strategy with harm reduction before Harper came to power. Then we spent 10 years going nowhere with it.”

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