Thursday, August 10, 2006

Write your own.

Dear Mr. Harper,

I'm writing to you as a former resident of Vancouver, and as someone with close friends and family who have been personally affected by addiction, to voice my support for the continued funding of Vancouver's Insite facility.
Like most British Columbians, I consider drug addiction a sickness, not a crime. The one-dimensional drug policy of the United States (a war on sick people) is not something I think Canada should emulate any longer. It's only effect (besides a zero decrease in number of drug users) has been the criminalization of thousands of innocent U.S. citizens and the swelling of U.S. jails to the breaking point.
The responsible way of dealing with the problem is through prevention and treatment. That's the approach that most civilized, progressive cities around the world have turned to with great success. The opening of Vancouver's first safe injection site in 2003 was a big step forward for Canada. The first of it's kind in North America, Insite had an almost immediate positive affect on the downtown eastside. Public injections and overdose fatalities were greatly reduced, as well as the spread of HIV and Hep C (which translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars saved by the health care system.) It offered Canadians (and Americans) a glimpse of what a sensible, humane approach to addiction treatment can look like.
Next month marks the close of Insite's first three year term, at which point you may choose to continue the project's funding or eliminate it. Your track record offers little hope to Canadians that you will choose the former. Regardless, I am writing to ask that you please consider the full gravity of your decision. Canada stands on the edge of a new approach to the treatment of it's addicts, one that would discard the outdated U.S. paradigm of intolerance and fear and offer instead compassion and treatment to it's sick citizens. Insite is the first beachhead of that approach, and has already made an important difference for residents of the downtown eastside. Let it continue to make a difference.

Jamie Tolagson
Victoria, B.C.