Times Colonist

B.C. might come to defence of Insite

Mulls intervenin­g in federal appeal of judgment favouring drug facility

- FRANCES BULA

VANCOUVER — B.C. Health Minister George Abbott says the province might intervene in a court case that could determine the future of Vancouver’s supervised injected site — and a possible similar site in Victoria.

Abbott said he is disappoint­ed by the federal government’s decision to appeal a B.C. court ruling that would let the Insite facility stay open indefinite­ly.

“We have not made a decision [about intervenin­g in the appeal] yet,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of brief discussion­s with the attorney-general and we need to have more before we reach some conclusion on whether it’s valuable or appropriat­e for us to apply [for intervenor status].”

The legal status of the injection site is critical for B.C., he said.

“It is a very important case involving a health facility we believe is important in the continuum of care for people with addictions and for people with mental illness.”

Abbott also made it clear he thinks more injection sites might be needed. Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe and the Vancouver Island Health Authority are hoping to establish one in the city.

“Insite is an interestin­g model and a model with considerab­le potential,” Abbott said.

Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Ian Pitfield ruled that Insite can stay open indefinite­ly because it provides a form of health care to which drug users have a right. He said Canada’s drug laws on possession and traffickin­g, from which the injection site has to get an exemption to operate, were too broad and arbitrary.

Pitfield declared those laws invalid, but suspended that declaratio­n for a year in order to allow the federal government a chance to rewrite them in a way that allows Insite to keep operating without exemptions.

Abbott said he was surprised that federal Health Minister Tony Clement not only decided to appeal but that he and others in his government came out with very strong statements indicating they don’t believe the scientific research surroundin­g Insite has proved that it benefits drug users or the community.

“I was disappoint­ed by that. I had hoped to talk to the health minister before he made that decision.”

Clement said the science supporting Insite was mixed and that he did not support what it was doing.

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