Safe Injection Sites Get Thumbs Up From Supreme Court of Canada

In a landmark decision that flies in the face of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government must stop interfering with the operations of the Insite safe injection site in Vancouver. According to the Globe and Mail:

The Court was persuaded by evidence that drug addicts are considerably safer administering their own injections under medical surveillance rather than obtaining and injecting hard drugs on the streets of the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside.

The unanimous decision (9-0) noted that the federal government’s concerns about illicit drug use were “grossly disproportionate” to the life saving benefits that the injection site provides to the community and drug addicts.

Ruling Needed to Save Safe Injection Site

Vancouver’s safe injection site was opened in 2003 under an exemption to trafficking provisions in Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The site was granted two extensions to the exemption, but then in 2008 the Conservative government made it clear that it would not support a further exemption. This put the future of the Vancouver clinic in jeopardy and also prevented other proposed safe injection sites from moving forward with their plans due to uncertainty about future support for them.

Jean-Francois Mary from Cactus Montreal, a community group that supports the creation of safe injection sites, said that today’s ruling removes the final obstacle for the creation of new clinics. He told the Globe and Mail that “the scientific merit was proven long ago, there was only the question of the legality…This decision brings us a big step forward – a Supreme Court ruling we can rely on.” Cactus plans to use today’s ruling to put pressure on the province of Quebec to move forward with safe injection sites in the province.

Health Minister Unhappy with Ruling

In Question Period today, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s ruling. She indicated that the Conservative government will comply with the ruling, but that they plan to review the decision. She emphasized that the Conservative government supports a system that focuses on preventing people from becoming drug addicts.

Supporters of Insite Celebrate the Decision

From staff to users of the clinic to non-Conservative politicians, supporters of Vancouver’s Insite clinic are relieved by today’s decision and celebrating it as a victory. New Democratic Party Member of Parliament, Libby Davies, supports the clinic which is in her riding and reacted by saying that “The Conservative government has been relentless in their opposition so today’s decision by the court just feels like an incredibly victory.”

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that the safe injection has “been proven to save lives with no discernible impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada.”

Related Stories:

The Global War on Drugs Has Failed, Leaders Say

U.S. Government Declares Marijuana Has No Medical Value

Religious Freedom Doesn’t Trump Canada’s Marijuana Laws

Photo credit: roland on flickr


Michael MacDonald

thanks christina
you said it

Christina Carlson

@ Michael M. - You have every right to defend your privacy and be allowed to share your personal experiences without fear of reprisal or e-bullying. I think it's unfortunate that individuals suffering with schizophrenia should be denied access to any means with which they can keep symptoms managable for themselves and those around them. @ Janice G. - You have a very pat and narrow view of people who utilize marijuana and for that I am sorry. Yes, modern strains of pot have generally been adapted through the years, yet despite the cursed gingivitis, many people who partake of weed find the benefits outweigh such risks. Any chemical substance in existence is subject to misuse, overuse and and subsequent villification. However, people who do indeed find some comfort or medicinal value in marijuana are just a tad sick of the overextended focus and persecution of that particular substance. Try feeding your concern and anger with the pharmaceutical companies who profiteer from the harm caused by overuse of Tyelenol or ibuprofren; or say the zombified abusers of over-the-counter sleep pills. How we digress, though, considering this article is about safe sites for injection addictions... I guess we all love a soapbox now and then!

Christina Carlson

I think Canada has the right idea and this is a thoughtful approach to a problem with few or difficult solutions. I agree with the research findings that this will not increase use of injectable drugs but will help those with this addiction come forward where they otherwise wouldn't have. In accepting the sensibility of safe and supervised injection, these addicts are taking a step towards safe and supervised recovery. If they were intellectually or morally bereft, they wouldn't understand the importance of safe & sanitary injection in the first place.

Michael MacDonald

I really wish I didn't have to divulge such personal information all the time just to protect my basic rights.
I can't even get a girlfriend anymore because of how many people know about my schizophrenia.
Please stop picking on us

Michael MacDonald

@Janice G.

excuse me,
but I have schizophrenia..
I was born with it,
marijuana helps me with it more than anything else (even my medication),
every other country other than canada has called this study unscientific,
being busted or giving someone with a mental illness a criminal record will provoke psychotic episodes and suicide attempts (it happened to me 5 times now!)

they claimed that they did studies before the 80's where no correlation between the two were ever found. In the same exact time line where they claim that marijuana starting causing this, rates of ecstacy usage starting going through the roof and esctacy directly effects the serotonin receptor (where psychosis occurs)

You have no idea how frustrating it is to have your mental illness used so that the government can try to put through legislation that would put you in jail (like that would ever help someone with a mental illness) all the while having absolutely no voice to stand up for yourself other than online.

Nothing is more detrimental to my mental illness than being treated like a criminal for using my medication.

You really shouldn't talk about things you know nothing about.
I suffered for over 20 years with schizophrenia and all the federal government wants to do is ruin my life and make me more miserable than I ever was before.

I had another suicide attempt over this just this year.
look at what you're supporting!

Michael MacDonald

obviously this is excessive punishment.
If the supreme court doesn't strike this down as unconstitutional as well
I will be seriously disappointed in our system,
because abiding by the charter is as fundamental to democracy as the right to vote.

Michael MacDonald

The evidence proves that this saves lives.
I don't see why people are so stubborn that they are unwilling to allow a program to go forward when all of the viable science backs it up.

These kinds of naysayers never actually have any direct experience with drug addiction themselves.
They do not know.

for one,
this protects people from diseases like HIV.
2nd, it gives the workers the opportunity to try and help these people off of their hard drugs
3rd, it allows workers to stop somebody from overdosing before it's too late
4th, they get people on methadone in order to get them off of drugs like heroin.
5th, they are not going to just let people come in and start shooting up who don't have a prior history with the drug so it's not creating more users but preventing the ones who exist now from dying.

The evidence is so clear that the supreme court struck down harper's attempt to shut these facilities down as unconstitutional.
that should say enough right there.
If you're still so stubborn that you'd rather see these people die of aids and overdoses then you really don't have any concern for their safety.

Now, as for mandatory minimums.
The 12th section of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects us from "cruel and unusual punishment" which includes excessive punishment (where the punishment is too severe for the crime committed) and seeing as potheads are going to be punished harder than people who rape children..
obviously this is excessive puni

Hilary S.
Hilary S6 years ago

there was an attempt to start safe injecting rooms here in australia years ago and unfortunately it fell through. people who use drugs are not criminals, though those who profiteer from dealing are. safe injecting rooms are such an obvious way to disrupt that whole criminal world. but perhaps there is too much drug money in political pockets...

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Until society shows some fairness and consideration for others, there will always be drug users and addicts. I don't blame anyone for wanting to find an escape from THIS kind of society.

Patrick F.
Patrick f6 years ago

Safe injection sites will actually save the country on health care costs.