As gastown evolves, we could model how those of us with money and homes can integrate with the marginalized in a way that is respectful, humane and does not prejudice people who are homeless and addicted.
I was thrilled to read Sarah's post about the news that Insite will stay open for the next 18 months. Compared to the prospects that it might be closed altogether, that's progress.
But the decision smacks of politics. That 18-month window coincides a little too neatly with the likely window for the next election, and it's not too hard to conclude the Conservatives just wanted to push the issue aside until the vote is safely out of the way. This is, after all, the government that refused to make any announcements during the International Conference on AIDS, saying the environment was "too politicized"... which is another way of saying too many people were paying attention.
On Friday, the Federal Government issued a press release saying that Insite will remain open until December 2007. I'm relieved. 18 more months of operation is a victory. You can read the press release here:
The tone of the release is a little bit negative, though. I guess I shouldn't expect the Conservatives to get wholeheartedly behind something like this, but I am disappointed that they feel they need to do further "research". Research should continue, yes, but I think the papers that have come out already give us enough information to know the site is not encouraging drug use, and is in fact helping. And the Ministry of Health seems to have missed the point of harm reduction altogether. They say they need more proof that the SIS is helping people get off drugs. While this would be a nice outcome, it was never the main objective of the SIS to get people off drugs. (Never mind that a study has shown that regular Insite participants are twice as likely to enter detox than non-insite users.) As I see it, the main objectives of the site are to save lives and reduce the spread of infections like HIV and Hepatits C. The Minister didn't even mention the progress that has been made on these goals.
We were down at the Trout Lake Farmer's Market today and there was a table where people could write letters to Stephen Harper which would be faxed to various MPs and then mailed via snail mail to Stephen Harper. I thought that was great, hand written notes will be more effective than emails. I filled one out.
In the spirit of letting people know how I'm doing on my change, I thought I'd report that I finished and sent off my letter to the PM. You can send a form letter or your own letter at www.communityinsite.ca if you want to help. Here's mine:
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to urge you to keep Vancouver's Supervised Injection Site open. By now, I am sure you have received many letters from people in the community who support the site. I know you have seen the scientific research showing that Insite saves lives, reduces infections, and helps addicts to access detox and treatment.
The federal legal exemption that allows the Supervised Injection Site to stay open expires on Sept 12th. That means that if the exemption is not extended, the doors will close on that day next month. If you folks are interested in letting Prime Minister Harper know how you feel about this issue, please write to him.
You can do this automatically through www.communityinsite.ca if you don't have time to write a personal letter.
I would like to change the federal government's mind about Insite, Vancouver's Supervised Injection SIte. Right now, the government is trying to decide whether to grant the legal exemption that will allow the site to continue operating. It seem