IN THE HOUSE ~ Speaks out against C-2 and in support of safe injection sites

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41st Parliament, 2nd Session ~ Context : Debate on C-2 (an Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act)

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the gentleman in the gallery was saying "save Canada Post". I can tell the House that at the town hall meeting I had last week, a hundred citizens in my riding were saying exactly the same thing. A lot of Canadians are very concerned about the government's mean-spirited destruction of Canada Post—

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, citizens are concerned about Canada Post—

Context : Continuation of debate

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, for those citizens concerned about the Canada Post closures and Canada becoming the only G7 country without home mail delivery, the NDP is putting forward a motion that every MP will be voting on later this week, asking the government to maintain home service delivery. It is in the interests of Canada and communities across this country. However, we will be speaking about that in question period and we will be speaking of that in the days to come.

Today, we are called upon to speak on Bill C-2, which is called an act to amend the controlled drugs and substances act, but should more rightfully be called an act to shut down InSite. Members will recall that the Conservative government wanted to shut down InSite. The Supreme Court Justices, who are appointed to maintain the rule of law, said no, it was not in the public interest.

Now, we have Conservatives coming back with a mean-spirited bill that attempts to do exactly the same thing. On this side of the House, within the NDP caucus, we say no to that. We stand with most British Columbians, who believe that InSite should be maintained. Why? Because the scientific evidence very clearly points to the importance of InSite.

I grew up in the Lower Mainland. I can recall a time in the early 1990s when we saw a tragic skyrocketing of overdose deaths to over 200 people a year. That is 200 individuals. Conservatives might call them addicts, but many Canadians knew them as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. They were family members who were passing away at an alarming rate. InSite was a reaction from the community to put in place a controlled injection site so that we could bring down the number of tragic overdose deaths.

InSite has succeeded remarkably. The number of overdose deaths has decreased by more than 35%. That is an extremely important statistic to know. More importantly, InSite is keeping heroin off the streets and keeping it in a controlled injection site. Study after study has very clearly pointed out that the number of discarded syringes has decreased in the Downtown Eastside and in parts of the Lower Mainland as a result of InSite. Studies show that over 2,000 referrals to addiction counselling are made every year. In fact, the rate of those who are looking at addiction treatment and who go to InSite is more than twice the average of those who do not go to InSite. What this means, in a very real sense, is that InSite is the first door and the first hallway into addiction treatment programs.

I should say that the Conservative government has been equally irresponsible when it comes to addiction treatment and crime prevention programs. What we have seen under the Conservative government is severe cutbacks in addiction treatments and in crime prevention programs. What we have is a Conservative government that just does not seem to get the importance to communities of putting in place effective crime prevention measures and putting in place effective addiction treatment measures. InSite is part of that process of finding solutions.

Many of my colleagues in the NDP caucus have spoken very eloquently. We have yet to hear from a Conservative on this issue, at least this year. The Conservatives will ask questions that are designed to take us away from this issue of InSite for the simple reason that most British Columbians support it. They have yet to comment on the very compelling statistics and the very compelling evidence of the success of InSite.

A very compelling result of the success of InSite is the fact that we are now talking about dozens of similar sites around the world, particularly in places like Australia and Europe. There, we are seeing the model of InSite, which of course was modelled on other similar facilities, going into other communities. Why is that happening? It is happening because of what comes from having that type of controlled injection facility.

Context : Questions and Comments

M. Peter Julian: Monsieur le Président, je remercie mon collègue de Trois-Rivières qui démontre beaucoup de leadership en disant que le NPD est prêt à gouverner. En effet, il démontre cela tous les jours avec ses interventions en Chambre.

La réalité est très claire. Quand on regarde les statistiques, plus de 2 000 des utilisations d'Insite ont été dirigés vers des services de consultation en un an. Ça fait déjà une différence. Quand on regarde le pourcentage des toxicomanes qui, par la suite, suivent un programme de désintoxication, c'est deux fois plus que la moyenne quand les gens sont capables d'avoir accès à Insite. Il n'y a pas de question là-dessus. Ça marche.

Ce que je trouve intéressant dans le dernier commentaire de mon collègue de Trois-Rivières, c'est que les conservateurs n'osent pas se lever pour parler et défendre le projet de loi. C'est parce que ce n'est pas défendable. C'est un mauvais projet de loi.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt that the Conservatives are now putting forward a concealed attempt to shut down Insite when I look at how the Conservative government has acted in the past trying to shut down Insite and then when the Supreme Court of Canada clearly said that would be an irresponsible action.

I cannot tell the House what a difference Insite has made to the downtown east side. Being a long time resident of the Lower Mainland I will go back in history. The former Liberal government callously destroyed the national housing program and that was when we started to see overdose deaths skyrocketing in the downtown east side. We have seen under both Liberal and Conservative governments very meanspirited policies that have helped to contribute to what has been an appalling abuse of the public.

The reason we are opposing Bill C-2 and the reason why we are promoting such things as housing being put back in the hands of the public is because we understand stronger communities have to be built in order to tackle issues like drug addiction.

Context : Continuation of debate

As I mentioned earlier, there are fewer addicts, and I go through the downtown east side regularly and I pass the InSite site regularly. Last Saturday, I was actually right outside InSite so I can see first hand, as a resident of the lower mainland and somebody who grew up there, the difference it has made to the downtown east side. There are fewer addicts shooting up in the streets around the area in the downtown east side. There are fewer discarded syringes.

What this has done is take heroin off the streets to a certain extent. Instead of trying to shut down InSite, many cities in Canada are looking at the possibility of establishing an InSite-type facility. Because of Bill C-2, they cannot seriously look at that because very clearly the Conservative government, instead of looking at solutions and harm reduction and at providing expansion on addiction-treatment and crime-prevention programs and instead of allowing, as the Supreme Court has very clearly said, a controlled injection site like InSite to exist, we are looking at Bill C-2, brought forward by the Conservative government which endeavours to shut it down.

Canadians, certainly in my area of the lower mainland, who have followed the debate, very clearly express support for InSite. Polls show that over 80% of the residents of the downtown east side support InSite. They are the ones who are closest to it. A few minutes ago, my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges very eloquently mentioned that the Conservatives need to understand the neighbourhood and the situation before they start putting legislation forward that is purely based on ideology. There is no doubt. The reality is that those closest to InSite support it, by 80%. Most British Columbians support it.

That is not all. Let us look at some of the world's most prestigious medical journals that have looked at the issue of InSite and controlled injection sites and have seen the medical benefits and the harm-reduction benefits that come from having a site such as InSite: the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the British Medical Journal. This is not a question where one member of Parliament should express his or her personal opinion compared to another member of Parliament. All members of Parliament are called upon to look at the evidence, to look at the medical professionals and what they say. When the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet all say that there is real merit in the harm-reduction approach that is embodied in facilities such as InSite, one would think that the Conservatives would be willing to listen, rather than pushing forward what is a very narrow-minded ideology and rather than attacking addiction-treatment programs and crime-prevention programs. Those things are terrific investments of taxpayer money because if we spend one dollar on crime-prevention or addiction-treatment programs, we are saving six dollars later on in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. So it makes a lot of sense from the taxpayers' standpoint to put in place a process and a philosophy where we are saving taxpayer money and stopping the crime from occurring in the first place.

The Conservative government has gutted crime prevention and addiction treatment, and now we see it attacking InSite. It makes no sense at all, except when we look at what the Conservatives have done since they introduced the bill, and my colleague from Halifax was very eloquent in this regard: “Keep heroin out of our backyards�. The Conservatives have been using this as a fundraising tactic, which is absolutely reprehensible. The reality is, for anybody who knows the issue, that what they are doing in shutting down InSite, is putting heroin back on the streets of the downtown east side. In shutting down InSite, there would be more syringes at children's playgrounds throughout the downtown east side and throughout the lower mainland. There would be more overdose deaths as a result of the current government's mean-spirited drive to shut down InSite. The reality is there would be fewer addicts looking for addiction-treatment programs because one thing that is clear from every study that has been done on InSite is that addicts are more likely to go into addiction treatment and addiction counselling if they can go to a supervised injection site. It is two for one: twice the possibility that they will look for treatment.

That is why, on the basis of evidence, the NDP is voting against this bill.

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