Ottawa to appeal ruling on drug injection facility

Thu May 29, 2008 5:17pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Canadian government will appeal a provincial court ruling that would allow North America's only sanctioned drug injection site to remain open, Health Minister Tony Clement said on Thursday.

A British Columbia judge ruled this week that the Insite facility in Vancouver provided addicts with a needed medical service, and struck down provisions of the country's drug laws that would have allowed Ottawa to close it.

The provincially funded facility opened in 2003 and operates under an exemption from national drug laws. But that exemption expires at the end of June and Clement had hinted that Ottawa would not grant another.

Clement told the House of Common's health committee in Ottawa that the science supporting Insite was "mixed," but the government had an obligation to protect its drug laws and that "public policy was clear."

"In my opinion, supervised injection is not medicine. It does not heal the person addicted to drugs," Clement said in his prepared remarks. "We can do better than simply warehousing people addicted to drugs for palliative care.

This week's court ruling continued Insite's operating extension until June 2009, by which time the federal government was supposed to have revised the drug laws to allow it to remain open.

Insite, which has strong local support, is modeled on similar facilities in Europe.

Addicts of heroin and cocaine are given clean needles to inject themselves with their own drugs, in a room supervised by a nurse. They can then go to a "chill-out room" before returning to the street.   Continued...