Agree or Disagree: We should examine the benefits of supervised drug injection sites

Much has been made by Licia Corbella’s column in the Calgary Herald about the death of Glee star Cory Monteith last Friday.

If you haven’t read it, here it is 

 Corbella stated  that in her opinion if Monteith lived in a city like Halifax, Toronto and or Calgary he would still be alive. The reason she gives is because of Vancouver’s drug culture.


It’s unlikely that the 31-year-old would have risked bringing hard drugs across the border from his home in the United States, so it’s safe to assume he either picked some up himself or had a gofer do it for him by visiting InSite, the government-sponsored and funded safe injection site at 139 East Hastings. The next step is easy. Wait for an injection drug user to show up, ask them to score you some heroin, grab a few clean, free needles and distilled water, and you’re set.

I didn’t know Cory Monteith or his drug habits. However, I do other people that have had issue with drug addictions. Based on what I have seen, if one wanted drugs in Halifax, Toronto, Calgary or any other city in Canada, they can get it. So, to blame this specifically on Vancouver and it’s drug culture isn’t necessarily fair on a couple of different categories. One,about 47,000 deaths are linked to substance abuse in Canada each year. And according to the Saskatchewan Department of Health, street youth are 11 times more likely to die of drug overdose and suicide.

This leads to the second part of Corbella’s argument which is InSite. InSite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. They are located in East Hastings, not far from the Fairmont Hotel that Monteith was found in.

While I don’t agree with Corbella’s speculation on Monteith, I do understand the validity of asking the benefits of supervised injection sites like this. As recently as July 10, the Toronto Board of Health  has come out approving supervised injection sites. The benefits claim to be crime reduction, improvements in health care, and a reduction in health care costs. There has been discussion of Toronto having three sites and Ottawa two, However,the federal government is not supporting these at this time.Opponents, like Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair would argue that the best defence is abstinence, prevention and enforcement.

Cities like Halifax, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver have drug cultures. They may look different, but drugs are evident everywhere. Perhaps it is time to examine for all cities to have a look at this?


One response to “Agree or Disagree: We should examine the benefits of supervised drug injection sites

  1. Denmark claims they had really good results with street level drug prevention programs and Toronto probably has the population base to benefit from a program like this. I don’t think Calgary has a strong enough police force to support a street level drug program AND I remember the last time they tried to put one in without the proper police support. But, Calgary is so fast. People move in and out and you don’t even know they were in town.

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