Friday, July 19, 2013

Corbella Repeats CPC Talking Points On InSite

Licia Corbella's column in the Calgary Herald today attempts to blame the death of actor Cory Monteith  on Vancouver's InSite.

That Ms. Corbella would take such a stance is hardly surprising - she has long been a cheerleader for just about everything that Harper does - especially the "get tough on everyone except Con$" justice policies.  She doesn't quite blame things directly on InSite, but when you look at what she has written, it is plenty clear that this is part of an attempt to discredit InSite.

Ask any informed Vancouverite where you could pick up a bit of heroin and they’d be able to tell you. Everyone from teetotalling old ladies with blue hair to a straight-A student in elementary school — all know if you want hard, illicit drugs, just go to the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and heroin will be as easy to acquire as chewing gum.
Heck, ask virtually any informed person across the country and they’d be able to tell you that if you want to go on a seedy trip of your choosing — be it a heroin holiday or a crack cocaine carousal — just head down to East Hastings Street and you will find what you’re looking for with no risk of arrest.

Note the first thing she does is portray the drug scene in Vancouver as rampant and out of control.  She doesn't say this, but her quip about "teetotalling old ladies" makes it pretty clear.  What she fails to note is that every large city in Canada has its own seedy area where drugs are readily available.  Vancouver's Downtown East Side has merely received the bulk of the attention in the media - largely because of the high level of systemic poverty, and the social problems that have developed in that part of Vancouver.

The Calgary-born actor, who was raised in Victoria, was found dead Saturday in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, which is a five-minute cab ride away from the Downtown Eastside, but worlds away in terms of ambience.
It’s unlikely that the 31-year-old would have risked bringing hard drugs across the border from his home in the United States, so it’s safe to assume he either picked some up himself or had a gofer do it for him by visiting InSite, the government-sponsored and funded safe injection site at 139 East Hastings. The next step is easy. Wait for an injection drug user to show up, ask them to score you some heroin, grab a few clean, free needles and distilled water, and you’re set.
Corbella's choice of words above is subtle.  Without saying it, she has implied that InSite has become a source for accessing drugs.  While this is a popular characterization among Conservatives, it is patently false.  InSite does not exist as a supplier of drugs, and drug dealers do not just "hang out by the doors".

Proponents of safe injection sites argue that such harm-reduction strategies save lives and that’s inarguably true. After all, if an injection drug user overdoses in the safe injection site, then a nurse is on hand to offer assistance and call an ambulance. This has happened numerous times. 
But no one ever asks how many people have died of drug overdoses who use the safe injection site as a legally safe place to procure drugs.
The eye-rolling stupidity of this statement is beyond comprehension.  Had Ms. Corbella taken the time to do the most basic of research, she would have found the following on InSite's own pages:

There has never been a fatality at InSite since opening.  In fact, research shows that since InSite opened, overdoses in the vicinity of the site have decreased by 35% -  compared to a 9% decrease in the city overall.
I don't know about you, but that seems to make it pretty clear that InSite's presence alone has served to reduce overdoses, both locally and in the greater metro area.

I told her what I’d do instead was call the Montreal police and ask them if they knew where the heroin users and dealers hung out. I didn’t have any Montreal police contacts, but called the on-duty sergeant. He didn’t know and neither did the various other police officers I was transferred to. 
In other words, show up in most North American cities and even a heroin junkie can’t necessarily find their poison. Even police don’t know where to go in their own city to find the stuff. But ask my strait-laced 82-year-old mom in Vancouver, and even she knows. 
Ms. Corbella's comparison here is ridiculous.  First, the police in any given city aren't going to give out information on illegal activity to anyone who calls them up.  They wouldn't know Ms. Corbella's voice over the phone from anyone else, nor would they be interested in facilitating whatever oddball fantasy some caller might be harbouring.  Second, it should be painfully obvious that when you travel to a different city, you probably aren't going to be well connected to the various sources for whatever your poison is.  While I might be aware that the DTES in Vancouver is a place where drugs are available, doesn't mean for a minute that I'm going to be able to find someone to sell it to me.  Drug dealers tend to be a rather wary lot, and unless you are introduced by someone they know, you aren't getting anything - you could easily be a cop.

The other thing that Ms. Corbella is overlooking is that prior to InSite's establishment in the late 1990s, Vancouver was experiencing an epidemic of drug overdoses.  That has abated since then ... and it abated long before Harper and his gang of "throw everyone in prison" thugs came anywhere near power.

InSite is well meaning. But the time has long passed for an independent investigator to really study how many people are using it as a gateway into hard drug use and a legally “risk free” way to procure an illegal substance.
InSite's research material has been lauded around the world for its clarity and objectivity.  Ms. Corbella's suggestion that they are less than objective is ludicrous.  It is nothing more than a repetition of the standard CPC line of drugs in general, and InSite in particular.

It is a sad thing indeed that the CPC and its cheerleaders seem to think that it is productive to attack people who are already down.  Perhaps they should look at the rubric of their own sloganeering and start to give people a hand up - which is precisely what facilities like InSite are designed to do.

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