Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Like the Lower East Side is BETTER, Clement!

One of the few bright spots during the rule of Mike "The Knife" Harris here in Ontario was that of his Health Minister, Tony Clement. He was a mostly competent Minister, serving in the Transportation, Environment, Municipal Affairs, and Health portfolios. It was in the last job that he stood out during the SARS crisis, one of those who helped to keep level heads in a really dangerous situation.

But that was then, and this is now. Last night, he made an uncommonly stupid remark. He questioned the ethics of physicians who support the InSite safe injection site for drug addicts in Vancouver.

I don't approve of drug abuse, naturally, but I would ask the current federal Health Minister what scenario should doctors support? Addicts on the streets, using dirty needles and spreading disease, with no community intervention whatsoever? Or a safe place where there are medical professionals on hand just in case a patient passes out? I agree with the principle "First do no harm" and doctors should do what they can to reduce and eliminate harm, but doesn't that also include a duty to alleviate the harm risk in a controlled environment and not the wilds of the Lower East Side?

We should be doing everything we can to help addicts kick their addictions permanently. We also need to deal with the root causes of addiction. Until we deal with both, we need to offer a bridge. That's why we need 24/7 safe injection sites, not just needle exchange programs and "vans" that patrol the streets late at night.

If this has something to do with "cleaning up" Vancouver's image for the 2010 Winter Olympics, it's not a valid argument. Progressive societies that ofter alternatives such as InSite usually have less drug abuse than restrictive societies with "zero tolerance" like the US and Singapore.

Oh ... not that it matters much to this discussion, but Clement also handles FedNor, the Federal Initiative for Northern Ontario, one of those "regional disparity" agencies along with the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency and Western Economic Diversification. Wouldn't it be better just to shut them down and have their services provided by the Business Development Bank of Canada, the BDC? Such agencies are just an excuse to have larger and larger Cabinets when we should have smaller ones running the country. The US seems to get by just fine with only 15.

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