OTTAWA, June 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Today in the House of Commons, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq introduced new legislation, Bill C-65, An act to amend the controlled drugs and substances act (Respect for communities act). This legislation follows the 2011 ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada that required the federal government to grant an exemption for the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver.
Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.
In a preliminary assessment based on initial review of the Bill, the CMA is deeply concerned that the proposed legislation may be creating unnecessary obstacles and burdens that could ultimately deter creation of more injection sites.
The CMA had intervened before the Supreme Court to support Insite. The unanimous decision was grounded in evidence, not ideology. The overwhelming clinical evidence is that centres like Insite save lives when it comes to some of our most vulnerable patient populations. In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that "… the evidence indicates that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption." What we have seen today seems to contradict the essence of the ruling.
Bill C-65 places the onus completely on the applicant to fulfil stakeholder, government and community consultation requirements.
The CMA fully endorses the existence of these harm-reduction tools, including supervised injection sites, and believes they should be included in a comprehensive national drug strategy. The CMA's position is founded upon clinical evidence. Bill C-65, it would appear, is founded upon ideology that seeks to hinder initiatives to mitigate the very real challenges and great personal harm caused by drug abuse.
SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association
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