64 Comments

Thank you so much for this piece.

Recovery is only possible if you’re alive, which is why harm reduction is so crucial.

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Like many people I was against the safe injection sites in Vancouver but then I realized that it was preventing people dying period not about being soft on drugs or paying for addicts drug habit. Granted it is not The solution but part. Addiction is a complex issue. Maybe bringing the provinces together looking at what data they have from their programs might be helpful. Not convinced though that the feds have much to contribute.

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Thanks for calling Skippy out on this so thoroughly. It takes time and effort that most journalists can’t/won’t do. I’m hoping the country will begin to see through his glib, blame-everything-on-Justin-Trudeau blather. Especially on life and death issues.

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"Recovery is only possible if you’re alive, which is why harm reduction is so crucial' - EXACTLY! Excellent piece, Paul, great research!

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I had to smile today when a Tyee article noted "Poilievre blames Trudeau for everything" with the "everything" a hyperlink to a PP tweet about how the lack of cough syrup and child-size tylenol was "Another Trudeau Failure".

I hadn't been aware of the Government Department Of Cough Syrup. Apparently, when entirely private-sector supply chains fail in their job in the very profitable drugstore system, that's STILL somehow government's fault.

Unless he meant that we had a lot of coughing kids because of years of opposition to masks and vaccines, which really is Trudeau's fault...no, wait, that was the other guys.

Political blame can defy time and space. I recall Rachel Notley and Trudeau blamed for oil prices that fell in 2014, a year before either took power.

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The attitude to Insight expressed by the Harper government was negative and counter productive. What you comment on worries me that Poilievre might do the same.

I’d like a change in government but worry Conservatives are not sensitive to what Canadians need and want. For many reasons , the Conservatives might not provide those desires. BC has developed expertise to treat overdosing. Use those experts to guide actions. Young families need child care. Don’t tinker with plans now in place and being made. Deal with protecting the North, develop well articulated and explained foreign policy. Listen to Canadians, not just the party and corporate elite.

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Edit: I have to point out though that safe injection sites are not solving the opioid crisis. And, while the recent move to decriminalize small amounts of fentanyl and other narcotics may ease the burden on courts somewhat, it makes it more likely addicts will overdose, just legally. Either way, addicts will continue to look for their next hit. Sometimes you have to look at these things and ask, qui bono, really, from decriminalizing these substances and from bandaid safe injection sites rather than more costly rehabilitation or mental health services or affordable housing? All these deaths are deaths of despair. I've lost many friends and family members to this stuff. What BC is doing is not a solution. Many academics and politicians think it is. But they have no idea. There are major differences between BC's and AB's approach - decriminalization of amounts of fentanyl and opioids to free up courts is one, bussing inconvenient squatters at specific times is another. BC's approach is different. Neither province has sufficient approaches. My main concern about this piece is it takes a very shallow look at the differences between two provinces rather than a holistic experiential approach to the different realities. It's irresponsible to pretend you know both provinces' approaches from what's here. And to do this to score a political gotcha on the backs of addicts without any real concern for them is very disappointing.

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Who benefits? Every single person whose life is saved in these sites; every person who receives counselling, a place to live, help with employment, medical care,... I don't believe that BC and Alberta are practising a one way only approach but are also supporting a growth in rehab and mental health services as the long-term solutions. It will require politicians of all parties to support the investment of taxes to follow both paths.

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Safe injection sites are not safe recovery programs.

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You make some excellent points, Terry, especially when referring to better mental health services. As you say, "these deaths are death of despair", which is sad. I have always found that liberal thinking folks like to throw money at a problem, which may actually exacerbate the problem. It is like tough love parenting, which involves more effort than merely giving in to the child's desires.

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Well said I read BC decriminalization on fentanyl where one can carry 4.5g of fenty and not be charged...

It takes only 2mg to OD... people promoting decriminalization's aren't doing the math.

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Decriminalizing is a good beginning. You can’t keep saddling the addicted with fines and time in jail. It solves nothing.

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Very good analysis. This is one of the most difficult issues to solve and without a solution we will continue to have this tremendous loss of human potential. There are no simplistic answers - I spent considerable time in Downtown Eastside Vancouver a decade and a half ago as we (Chretien Gov't) established safe injection sites and a drug Court in the hopes of reducing the impact of drug addiction. They help but we still have a long way to go. Bottom line, unless you have been there, it is impossible to understand drug addiction and there are no easy answers.

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This is a medical / health issue and should be treated as such. Safe injection sites and safe drug supply is a key component but it requires a coordinated treatment program. Portugal has a very progressive policy that should be a model that Canada adopts. There was a great summary in The Guardian in 2017. Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it? by Susana Ferreira, 5 Dec 2017

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Yes, I've read about Portugal and I baffled why their model isn't being studied.

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Thank you for setting the stage outlining Poilievere's lack of comprehension of a very complicated issue. Not sure what Trudeau has to do with it except the need for Pierre to bash him incessantly. If anyone has tried to stop smoking they know what an addiction is. Only a multi multi modal program will save lives

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Wow Paul, my head is spinning with that data. This is definitely a very challenging and deep-rooted problem, and as you pointed out Pierre's solution is too straightforward. Within my small circle of social contacts, I know of a young man, with an opioid addiction, who moved to BC specifically for the easy access. In this land of plenty that so many are suffering and turning to drugs to cope is so sad.

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Arrest and forced rehabilitation then housing. Yes get the streets cleaned up and safe for the citizens who pay the taxes to have clean and safe streets. And your last comment is inane as if anyone has suggested pep talks. That cheapens the entire article which otherwise is a piece that I enjoyed.

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There's no such thing as "forced rehabilitation".

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The sad truth is people die because of what they do to themselves. . The crime and squalor we see is not solved by blaming society. These people need meaning and purpose which will only come from learning personal responsibility outside the street. It's good that people are not dying at injection sites but unless they are taken out of the street environment the only way out is more crime, squalor and death. We are not helping by enabling.

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I don't know if you've ever watched of the show "Intervention" but it is usually much better than you would expect. Perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out that many people who struggle with addiction issues have suffered great personal trauma/abuse in their early life. These people need deep therapy and their substance abuse tends to be self-medication. The safe injection sites are a stopgap measure - certainly necessary - but what's really needed is a lot of therapy which we tend not to want to pay for. If we really want to deal with this problem we need to provide that access to every single person who wants it - and this is important - at the very time they want it. We have the money in our society to do that we just choose not to.

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There are no solutions for this, only painful trade-offs. PP has correctly pointed out that the mess on the streets that the safe injection sites (and related homelessness) cause is less and less palatable to city residents.

It is not to his credit that he should make this a federal political issue.

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Paul, sorry, nobody anointed me your copy editor, but was there supposed to be more to that paragraph after "it's churlish to ask"?

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author

There is! I'm running errands but will finish that thought later this evening

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I am grateful to you for this piece. Our church and our pastor supported the creation of a harm reduction site across the street from us. We have sought to build bridges with the community of people who come through their doors. No one would suggest that it is the solution to the problem of addictions. But it helps and is one tool in the kit where facile preaching falls short. I have a son who is familiar with the well of darkness which is addiction. The place across the street offers some light where that darkness might otherwise prevail

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