Pubdate: Wed, 11 Dec 2002
Source: North Shore News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 North Shore News
Author: Fiona Gold


Dear Editor:

Oh dear. Leo Knight sounds like he is spouting American drug policy (Is 
Larry Campbell in control?/ Don't Trust Junkies, North Shore News, Nov. 27).

After a somewhat rambling and fabricated diatribe about Larry Campbell's 
affiliations with the "loony left," Knight ventures into the field of 
addiction. He explains, abracadabra, how to rehabilitate an "abuser."

The unfortunate part, and perhaps he does not realize this, is that he is 
advocating what the United States has done for years - "force treatment 
through strict drug courts" and "contain the abusers until such time as 
they are prepared to deal with their addiction." The traditional criminal 
justice system approach to dealing with addiction has not done well in the 
United States. More than two million people are in jail (that is five per 
cent of the world's prison population) and 75 per cent of those people are 
incarcerated for non-violent offences. Six million people suffer from the 
disease of addiction in the United States.

 From the perspective of a registered nurse working in Vancouver's Downtown 
Eastside, I find Knight's lack of compassion chilling. It would appear that 
he has never known a drug user. He has not met and spoken with people who 
later overdosed and died. He has not had to tell drug users that they have 
tested HIV or hepatitis C positive. He has not met distraught parents or 
siblings. He does not know what it might be like to work in the sex trade 
to support a drug habit. He also does not know what happens in prisons 
while drug users are being "contained." He also has no idea how 
courageously drug users have struggled and lobbied to improve conditions 
for their fellow addicts across Canada.

Supervised injection facilities and heroin prescription are not just some 
dreamed up scheme of the "loony left," rather they are pragmatic and 
compassionate responses to the problem of addiction.

Evidence from Australia and Europe clearly demonstrates that both these 
initiatives have kept people alive, have reduced HIV and hepatitis C 
transmission, have increased the health and well-being of addicts, and have 
encouraged many users to pursue detox and treatment programs. In 26 cities 
in the world, supervised injection facilities and heroin prescription 
programs have effectively reduced the open-drug scene and targeted the most 
marginalized and chaotic users. In every city, where these programs have 
been set up, health-care policy has worked hand in hand with law enforcement.

Former mayor Philip Owen has a lovely story he likes to tell. He relates 
how he asked the mayor of Sydney, Australia and the mayor of Bern, 
Switzerland what they thought about their supervised injection facilities? 
Both mayors answered, they wished that they had established these programs 

As Gary Johnson, the governor of New Mexico said in a recent visit to 
Vancouver, "The war on drugs is an absolute, miserable failure. It's 
reached a level of insanity that needs reforming. The strategy should be to 
reduce death, disease and crime."

We are fortunate to have Larry Campbell as the new mayor of Vancouver. As 
an ex-RCMP drug cop and a coroner who has investigated many overdose 
deaths, he understands the complexity of the problem and will advocate for 
a sane, compassionate and effective drug policy.

Fiona Gold
West Vancouver
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