By Mike Archer. Though it isn’t likely to change many minds in pro-harm portion of Abbotsford, “Harm reduction — not a war on drugs — has reduced illicit drug use and improved public safety in what was once Ground Zero for an HIV and overdose epidemic that cost many lives, says a 15-year study of drug use in Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside.”
According to a story on Huffington Post, the study found that by following an aggressive harm reduction approach to drug addiction Vancouver has managed to reduce the number people using drugs, “… and, of those who were, fewer were injecting drugs.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Abbotsford refuses to allow any property in the City to be used to provide clean needles. The Fraser health Authority (FHA) has told the City it has no jurisdiction to interfere with the FHA’s mandate of providing health care to Canadian citizens and that, if forced to, it will use the courts to force the City from killing drug addicts.
Earlier this year the Pivot Legal Society announced its intent to sue the City of Abbotsford for its ultravires anti-harm reduction bylaw.
B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS published the report and, according to the Huffington Post, Dr. Thomas Kerr, co-author of the report, said, “A public health emergency was declared here because we saw the highest rates of HIV infection ever seen outside of sub-Saharan Africa — in this community. At the same time, the community was being levelled by an overdose epidemic,” Kerr said after presenting his findings to members of the group affected at a community centre in the heart of the neighbourhood.
“Vancouver took a public health approach to the crisis, opening the country’s first supervised injection site in 2003, and Kerr said the statistics show that approach was successful.”When Abbotsford held public hearings into its anti harm reduction bylaw it found that 85 percent of those who participated opposed Councillor Simon Gibson’s deadly approach to addiction.
Gibson, who had two issues on which he stood up during his 30 years at the municipal public trough – alcohol and drugs. A firm believer that abstinence is the only answer to either issue he first ran on a promise to keep Abbotsford a dry community and, when he eventually lost that battle, he turned on the addicts of Abbotsford promising them death in the alleys in order to get re-elected.Just as the electorate began to turn on him Gibson ran to the safety of a provincial government job as MLA for the BC Liberals in Abbotsford Mission just in time to miss all of the law suits caused by he and his new partner in Victoria – former criminologist Darryl Plecas who convinced the municipalities and police forces of the Lower Mainland they could ignore Canadian law and the requirement for search warrants in the fight against marijuana.
Abbotsford Council’s inability to stay within either its municipal jurisdiction or abide by the Municipal Charter may turn out to be a bigger mistake than expected as the law suits mount and the possibility of a challenge to the City’s decision to provide taxpayers’ funds in a multi-million dollar revenue guarantee to a private business – The Abbotsford Heat – comes under increasing scrutiny as the the losses mount.
This month’s Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident has focused the community’s and the world’s attention on Abbotsford’s antiquated and barbaric way of treating the poor and the homeless which, it turns out, has been going on for years.
In what may yet turn out to be a foreshadowing of what City Council may decide to do faced with an opportunity to save lives and allow the FHA to provide health care to all Abbotsford citizens, the author of the study said,
“This is probably the city with the most aggressive harm reduction approach, yet we’re seeing declining rates of drug use within this community, adding, “Still, the Conservative government continues to fight programs such as supervised-injection sites.”
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Lily Kaetler for sending us the link to the report.