Thursday, June 06, 2013

Conservatives On Safe Injection Sites

So much fodder to blog about today.  I hardly know where to begin, with still more corruption oozing out of the Senate Expenses scandal, Brent Rathgeber bailing out of the CPC caucus and Leona Aglukakk tabling legislation on Safe Injection Sites.

It's no secret that the Conservatives weren't happy after the Supreme Court ruled against their move to shut down the Safe Injection site in Vancouver - in spite of multiple years of solid evidence of the effectiveness of the program.

Today, they tabled their response in the House of Commons in the form of Bill C-65 subtitled "The Respecting Communities Act".

I am not particularly surprised to see that what we have here is an act of legislation which is designed not to provide a meaningful framework upon which an organization wanting to start one of these sites could operate, but instead it sets up a complex set of hoops that rival those put in front of transsexuals in the days of rigid gender clinic programs in the 1970s.  ... and then it leaves the ultimate decision in the hands of the minister.

Consider the following list of no less than 24 categories of information that must be included in order to even begin the process of applying for the ministerial exemption that is required to open a safe injection facility.  There are no less than 24 different pieces of information, one of which is disturbingly open ended - the last one.

Some of these appear reasonable on the surface, and others are completely unreasonable.
(3) The Minister may consider an application for an exemption for a medical purpose under subsection (2) that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site only after the following have been submitted:
(a) scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites;
(b) a letter from the provincial minister who is responsible for health in the province in which the site would be located that
(i) outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site,
(ii) describes how those activities are integrated within the provincial health care system, and
(iii) provides information about access to drug treatment services, if any, that are available in the province for persons who would use the site;
(c) a letter from the local government of the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines its opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public health or safety;
(d) a description by the applicant of the measures that have been taken or will be taken to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (c);
(e) a letter from the head of the police force that is responsible for providing policing services to the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public safety and security;
(f) a description by the applicant of the proposed measures, if any, to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (e);
(g) a letter from the lead health professional, in relation to public health, of the government of the province in which the site would be located that outlines their opinion on the proposed activities at the site;
(h) a letter from the provincial minister responsible for public safety in the province in which the site would be located that outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site;
(i) a description of the potential impacts of the proposed activities at the site on public safety, including the following:
(i) information, if any, on crime and public nuisance in the vicinity of the site and information on crime and public nuisance in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located,
(ii) information, if any, on the public consumption of illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and information on the public consumption of illicit substances in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located, and
(iii) information, if any, on the presence of inappropriately discarded drug-related litter in the vicinity of the site and information on the presence of inappropriately discarded drug-related litter in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located;
(j) law enforcement research or statistics, if any, in relation to the information required under subparagraphs (i)(i) to (iii);
(k) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of persons who consume illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(l) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of persons with infectious diseases that may be in relation to the consumption of illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(m) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of deaths, if any, due to overdose — in relation to activities that would take place at the site — that have occurred in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(n) official reports, if any, relevant to the establishment of a supervised consumption site, including any coroner’s reports;
(o) a report of the consultations held with the professional licensing authorities for physicians and for nurses for the province in which the site would be located that contains each authority’s opinion on the proposed activities at the site;
(p) a report of the consultations held with a broad range of community groups from the municipality in which the site would be located that includes
(i) a summary of the opinions of those groups on the proposed activities at the site,
(ii) copies of all written submissions received, and
(iii) a description of the steps that will be taken to address any relevant concerns that were raised during the consultations;
(q) a financing plan that demonstrates the feasibility and sustainability of operating the site;
(r) a description of the drug treatment services available at the site, if any, for persons who would use the site and the information that would be made available to those persons in relation to drug treatment services available elsewhere;
(s) relevant information, including trends, on loitering in a public place that may be related to certain activities involving illicit substances, on trafficking of controlled substances and on minor offence rates in the vicinity of the site, if any;
(t) information on any public health emergency in the vicinity of the site or in the municipality in which the site would be located that may be in relation to activities involving illicit substances as declared by a competent authority with respect to public health, if any;
(u) a description of the measures that will be taken to minimize the diversion of controlled substances or precursors and the risks to the health and the safety and security of persons at the site, or in the vicinity of the site, including staff members, which measures must include the establishment of procedures
(i) to dispose of controlled substances, precursors, and any thing that facilitates their consumption, including how to transfer them to a police officer,
(ii) to control access to the site, and
(iii) to prevent the loss or theft of controlled substances and precursors;
(v) a description of record keeping procedures for the disposal, loss, theft and transfer of controlled substances and precursors — and any thing that facilitates their consumption — left at the site;
(w) the name, title and resumé, including relevant education and training, of the proposed responsible person in charge, of each of their proposed alternate responsible persons, and of each of the other proposed key staff members;
(x) a document issued by a Canadian police force in relation to each person referred to in paragraph (w), stating whether, in the 10 years before the day on which the application is made, in respect of a designated drug offence or a designated criminal offence, the person was
(i) convicted as an adult,
(ii) convicted as a young person in ordinary court, as those terms were defined in subsection 2(1) of the Young Offenders Act, chapter Y-1 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, immediately before that Act was repealed, or
(iii) a young person who received an adult sentence, as those terms are defined in subsection 2(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act;
(y) if any of the persons referred to in paragraph (w) has ordinarily resided in a country other than Canada in the 10 years before the day on which the application is made, a document issued by a police force of that country stating whether in that period that person
(i) was convicted as an adult for an offence committed in that country that, if committed in Canada, would have constituted a designated drug offence or a designated criminal offence, or
(ii) received a sentence — for an offence they committed in that country when they were at least 14 years old but less than 18 years old that, if committed in Canada, would have constituted a designated drug offence or a designated criminal offence — that was longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act for such an offence;
(z) any other information that the Minister considers relevant to the consideration of the application; and
(z.1) any prescribed information that is submitted in the prescribed manner.
The requirement for a "letter of consent" from not just one level of government, but all levels of government _and_ from the head of the police department in the area seems to be beyond ridiculous.  For all intents and purposes, it strikes me as highly unlikely that you would ever get all of these levels of government to agree.  

I suspect that the burden of evidence that is being demanded here is far beyond the means of most community organizations that would be interested in getting a safe injection site started.

This is not surprising.  Where the Conservatives cannot use their standard hard-line punishment-above-all-else approach to governing, they will throw up as many walls as they can possibly get away with.  In this case, the final wall is that of the government itself.  When the final decision is left ultimately to the minister, it becomes fundamentally a political decision, regardless of how many tons of supporting documentation is demanded and provided.

This bill is a way for the Con$ to prevent another InSite being created.  They failed in their attempts to shut InSite down, but they are bound and determined to continue the mindless failure of the Republican 'War on Drugs' model rather than constructively addressing the situation.

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