Pubdate: Sat, 08 Oct 2011
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2011 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Melanie Moore


As a longtime resident of both Vancouver and Ottawa, and as someone
who has worked in the "small" neighbourhood known as the Downtown
Eastside (DTES), I feel compelled to respond to Dan Gardner's article.
While it may be geographically small, it is a densely populated area.
And, by all accounts, Vancouver is home to between 6,000 and 14,000
intravenous drug users - a third of those people live on the Downtown

I was not surprised by Mayor Jim Watson's statements, though I do find
them somewhat ignorant. However unsafe Watson may feel in the DTES, I
do not think he has any idea of what the area was like before Insite.

Gardner is right: the problems in the area were present long before
its inception. Having seen the marked, drastic changes Insite has made
to the community, I am a supporter. On the surface, there are fewer
people shooting up outside, and fewer dirty needles littering the
ground. In research, I see that overdoses and new HIV/Hepatitis C
cases have decreased.

But I've also seen something very interesting developing on the DTES 
since the inception of Insite: a sense of community. By attacking the 
root problem of disparity on the DTES (that of unsafe drug use), the 
area is more inclined to get clean. It has become safer: businesses are 
moving into the area, many of them, like Save-On-Meats, are socially minded.

Addicts, who may feel less stigmatized, seem more inclined to take
advantages of other services in the area such as UBC's Learning Exchange.

Insite is obviously needed in Vancouver - I am thankful for the
Supreme Court's decision. However, based on numbers alone, Insite is
not needed in Ottawa. We simply do not have an area that resembles the
DTES in the slightest, and our medical resources are stretched as it
is. Instead, community organizations that work with addicts should be
providing clean needles free of charge.

Providing access to clean needles should not be seen as a matter of
encouraging drug use, but rather a matter of preventing people from
contracting HIV and other diseases.

While not everyone will have their lives affected by drug abuse,
epidemics have the power to affect us all.

Melanie Moore,

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