VANCOUVER -- The Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn't protect the right of drug addicts to shoot up, federal lawyers told a B.C. court Tuesday, arguing that the future of Vancouver's supervised-injection site is a matter of policy, not law.
"The primary activity at this site, which is drug injection for drug users, is not medical treatment, which the charter could protect," John Hunter told B.C. Supreme Court.
"At the end of the day, there is no constitutional right to use heroin or cocaine, even if you are already addicted to them."
Ottawa has until June 30 to decide whether the supervised-injection site in the city's troubled Downtown Eastside, known as Insite, will be allowed to remain open under an exemption from Canada's drug laws.
The federal health minister hasn't announced his decision, but a group of addicts and the Portland Hotel Society, which runs Insite, have asked the court to intervene.
The plaintiffs argue the site should be the responsibility of the provincial government because it is a health-care facility, and also that closing it would violate the charter right to "security of the person."
Hunter rejected both of those arguments.
He said the initial exemption when Insite opened in 2003 was for a pilot project to study the potential impacts of such a site, not for a permanent health-care facility.
Hunter said the pros and cons of such a facility are open to rational debate, and that means the ultimate decision belongs in the political arena instead of a courtroom.
"These are controlled substances and that decision has to be made by someone, and who better than the minister of health?" he said.
A 10-day summary trial is currently underway, with each side presenting affidavits from experts. Once that process is finished, Justice Ian Pitfield will decide whether to make his ruling or put the case to a full trial.
Insite, North America's only safe-injection facility, provides space for addicts to inject their own illegal drugs, including heroin and cocaine, under the supervision of a nurse.
Users are given clean supplies to prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, and they can receive immediate medical attention if they overdose.
The group that runs the site estimates more than one million injections have been supervised at the site since it opened, with the site now seeing as many as 1,200 visits each day.
Last fall, a detox and rehab facility known as Onsite opened upstairs.
Supporters of the supervised-injection site include B.C.'s provincial government, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and the Vancouver Police Department.
But critics argue allowing people to inject illegal opiates facilitates addiction and promotes drug use.
Mark Townsend of the Portland Hotel Society, which staged a demonstration Tuesday in a nearby park in support of Insite, acknowledged that facility alone won't solve the drug problem plaguing the Downtown Eastside.
But he said it's an important part of the solution.
"It's a complicated issue - you need prevention, treatment, enforcement and you need harm reduction, because if you don't have harm reduction, people will die," said Townsend.
Behind him a thousand crosses stood where supporters of Insite planted them in the grass.
The crosses were intended to represent the number of overdoses that have occurred at the safe-injection site - overdoses, Townsend said, that may have otherwise occurred on the street, out of the reach of trained medical staff.
"And one of these people would have died if they had not injected their drug in a supervised-injection site and would not be ready for detox - dead people don't detox," he said.
"I really, sincerely believe that the government has not made a decision, and I really, sincerely believe that (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper will ultimately do the right thing, but I think he needs to get the message and understand the stuff."
"The plaintiffs argue the site should be the responsibility of the provincial government because it is a health-care facility, and also that closing it would violate the charter right to "security of the person."
^ Seriously, how lame can you get? I'm all for people doing whatever they want to their own bodies as they see fit and if that means they want to drug themselves up, so long as they don't interfeer into someone else's life by stealing or killing to get their fix, knock yourselves out.
But these injection sites are most certainly not a Health-Care Facility nor would closing them violate the "security of the person" when the security of that person is being violated by themselves by their own free will.... addicted or not.... you choose your own actions and you accept the consequences of those actions. You want to have "security of the person" and you want a Health Care Facility.... then go into Detox/Rehab.
Quite honestly I think these injection sites are stupid and the defense that it reduces the amount of needles and such on the streets is not only trivial, but contradicting to the government's policies on those drugs in paticular. You either make them illegal or you make them legal. You can't make something illegal and then issue out facilities, doctors, medics and nurses to help those people use the drugs in which you're claiming are illegal.