Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Dr. Hedy Fry has alleged that the Conservative Party of Canada has tried to cash in on a government bill proposing greater regulations over supervised-injection sites.
In an interview with the Georgia Straight at Maurya Indian Cuisine, Fry claimed that the Conservatives sent out a fundraising letter highlighting Bill C-65, which would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, on the same day it was introduced in Parliament earlier this month.
Fry, who is the Liberal health critic, claimed the letter suggested that in the absence of this legislation, there was a greater risk of “people shooting up heroin in your back yard”.
“So the question I asked in the House is, ‘If the prime minister is also the leader [of the Conservatives], is the prime minister endorsing this fundraising letter that says you don’t want people shooting up in your back yard?’ ” Fry said.
The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to the Straight’s request for an interview by deadline.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal health minister had to grant an exemption to Vancouver’s supervised-injection site, Insite, so that it could continue operating. The court ruled that the government’s decision to deny this exemption would deprive Insite clients of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and security of the person under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bill C-65, which is called the Respect for Communities Act, sets the bar very high before the minister can provide an exemption for any future supervised-injection sites.
“Given the inherent threat posed to public health and safety from controlled substances obtained through illicit sources, it is common sense that exemptions to undertake activities with them should be limited to rare or unique circumstances,” Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said when she introduced the bill.
However, Fry suggested that the bill was written in a way that would ensure no more supervised-injection sites are approved in Canada. This is despite research published in the medical journal the Lancet that reported a 35- percent decline in overdose deaths in the area around Insite.
Insite came about in part because the Vancouver police approved a “bubble zone” in which drug users would not be arrested for possession as they entered the premises.
Fry noted that prior to a new facility being approved under Bill C-65, there must be a letter of support from the province. In addition, police must agree that the supervised-injection site won’t disrupt the peace or contribute to criminal activity, and employees have to undergo criminal-record checks.
“This burden of proof must be community-based and locally and regionally based, to the extent that you’re going to have to do a complete study,” Fry added. “But to do the study, you’re going to have to get the bubble zone created to allow the illegal drugs to be used.”
She described that as a “Catch-22”.
Fry pointed out that groups in Montreal, Toronto, and Victoria are all trying to create supervised-injection sites in their communities. “All sorts of people are going to be putting forward constitutional challenges,” she predicted.