Insite: Will Harper prevail by stacking Supreme Court of Canada?
This afternoon, there was a rally at Victory Square for Insite, which is Vancouver's incredibly popular supervised-injection site.
The protesters gathered to object to the Conservative government's decision to appeal a recent ruling in B.C. Supreme Court.
Earlier this week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield granted Insite an exemption from Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
In a presentation to the federal health committee on May 29, Health Minister Tony Clement downplayed the effectiveness of Insite, and highlighted the importance of prevention. Clement told members of the committee that the government is appealing Pitfield's decision.
From Clement's testimony, it was pretty obvious that he hasn't read Gabor Mate's superb recent book, Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. It gives a pretty thorough explanation why so many people are dealing with addiction in western society, and why the war on drugs is a massive public-policy fiasco.
If Clement and Harper had any real compassion, they would take the time to read Mate's book and not just rely on briefings from their staff or from police lobby groups about the nature of addiction.
There's another issue--one that hasn't received much attention so far--in connection with the Conservative government's decision to appeal the Insite decision.
In 2000, the B.C. government lost a court case in the B.C. Supreme Court regarding its legal obligations to fund early-autism intervention. Justice Marion Allan ruled that the government's actions violated autistic children's constitutional rights.
The B.C. government lost again in the B.C. Court of Appeal. But the government succeeded in the Supreme Court of Canada in what was known as the Auton case, thanks to the highest court's narrow interpretation of the government's obligations under medicare.
If Harper remains prime minister for a few more years, he'll have an opportunity to stack the Supreme Court of Canada with judges who support his strict view regarding the powers of governments under Canada's constitution.
If enough conservative-minded judges are appointed, it's quite conceivable that Pitfield's ruling--which was grounded in the constitutional rights of drug addicts--will ultimately be overturned.
And one day, that could lead to the closure of Vancouver's supervised-injection site, and a whole lot more protests on the Downtown Eastside.