Pubdate: Wed, 26 Sep 2012
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Robert Howard


Burlington residents fighting a public health clinic being built on 
Fairview Street are doing themselves, their city and, frankly their 
children who they trotted out for a photo opportunity, no favours.

They are fighting a clinic, on a commercial strip well separated from 
the nearest residential streets, that will provide public health 
services such as sexual health, smoking cessation and dental care - 
and, if experience at a previous location speaks for anything, 
exchange one used intravenous drug needle for a clean one about every 
five days. Residents want to ensure their children will be safe from 
discarded needles - fair enough. But a needle exchange helps that by 
requiring a used needle to be handed in for safe disposal.

Intravenous drug users are not serial killers passing through town; 
they are our own neighbours, family members and friends who mostly, 
as someone wiser than us once said, have passed on from consuming 
drugs to being consumed by drugs. They are people with rights, the 
same as every one of us, and to demonize them by suggesting a low-use 
needle exchange program will cause significant danger to children and 
families is not just wrong, but mean-spirited.

It's bad enough, in our view, to fight a public-health effort to make 
an inherently unsafe activity a little bit less risky. But posing 
children with posters saying "No needles - keep our families safe" in 
front of a pile of plastic representing probably about five years 
worth of exchanged needles is sad. We should be encouraging 
compassion - and safe practices - in our children, not ill-founded 

Robert Howard
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