Last Several Decades — The drug scene in Vancouver develops in the city’s Downtown Eastside. The area has become notorious for its drug scene where just about anything can be bought for ten dollars. There are about 5,000 injection drug users in the Downtown Eastside and many live in an eight-block area.
1994 — Following a call for supervised injection sites by the Chief Coroner of B.C., a group of individuals opened a site called the Back Alley Site. The police closed the site down after one year.
January 1995 — B.C. chief coroner Vince Cain issues a major report on drug overdose deaths and recommends that addiction be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal one. He even advocates giving out free heroin.
July 1997 — Downtown Eastside organizers put up 1,200 crosses in Oppenheimer Park to mark deaths from drug overdoses, the beginning of a street-level campaign for sanctioned injection sites.
July 1998 — A report by B.C. public health officer John Millar says the province has an "epidemic" of death and disease caused by drugs, as overdose deaths spike and HIV and hepatitis C infection rates reach Third-World levels.
2001 — By 2001, Vancouver formally adopts harm reduction as a centerpiece of its drug policy. The “four pillars approach” focuses on prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction. The position is consistent with Canada’s national Drug Strategy which states that substance abuse is primarily a health issue rather than an enforcement issue, harm reduction is considered to be a realistic and humane approach.
November 2002 — Former coroner Larry Campbell is elected mayor on a promise to clean up the Downtown Eastside and get an injection site opened by the end of the year. He heads to Ottawa in December to talk to the federal government.
September 2003 — Health Canada grants Vancouver Coastal Health a three-year exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish North America’s first supervised injection site scientific research project at 139 Hastings Street in Vancouver. Researchers from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS act as evaluators of Insite. They have been monitoring the site and publishing their findings in peer-reviewed journals. Health Canada provided about $1.5 million to fund only this evaluation component of the project. The Government of B.C. has been responsible for funding the administration and all other aspects associated with the operation of the site.
The exemption and evaluation funding were to conclude on September 12, 2006.
2005 — The Drug Prevention Network of Canada (DPNC) is formed by former Reform MP Randy White. The DPNC opposes harm reduction and the Supervised Injection Site.
January 24, 2006 — The Harper government comes to power.
June 2006 — Prime Minister Harper tells Vancouver reporters that he is waiting for assessments from the RCMP and other agencies before making a decision on what to do about Insite.
September 1, 2006
June 7, 2006 — The researchers who are studying Insite from the Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS publish a study in the New England Journal of Medicine which says the more a drug user visits Vancouver's supervised-injection site, the more likely that user is to go into detox.
— The B.C. division of the RCMP and the Canadian Police Association make statements against keeping Insite open.
September 1, 2006
— Then Health Minister Tony Clement advises Vancouver Coastal Health that their exemption will be extended to December 31, 2007 to allow for more research on how supervised injection sites affect prevention, treatment and crime, but the government will no longer provide funding for the evaluation component.
Fall 2006 — According to the PIVOT legal Society, the RCMP approaches Colin Mangham, Director of Research for the Drug Prevention Network of Canada to write a critique on the pre-existing research on Insite.
November 21, 2006 — Researchers Evan Wood, Mark Tyndall, Julio Montaner and Thomas Kerr of the Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS publish their summary of findings in the Canadian Medical Association Journal from the evaluation of Insite. The researchers conclude that the facility does not encourage drug use, drug addicts who use the site are being referred to treatment, and they are less likely to share needles and overdose.
Click here to read a two-page summary [PDF 70kb]
Click here to read the full article [PDF 371kb]
This article originally appeared in the November 21, 2006 issue of Canadian Medical Association Journal. Reprinted with permission from the copyright holder.
December 2006 — Expert Advisory Committee On Supervised Injection Site is established. The EAC will provide Tony Clement with scientific advice on analysis of the supervised injection site.
January 3, 2007 — Health Minister Tony Clement pays an unexpected visit to Insite but leaves without indicating if it would be permitted to operate beyond the end of the year.
January 17, 2007 — DPNC’s director of research Colin Mangham’s critique of Insite, which was commissioned by the RCMP, is completed.
September 2007 — St. Michael's Hospital researcher Stephen Hwang writes a commentary in the online journal Open Medicine, accusing the feds of allowing ideology to trump science. The commentary is signed by more than 130 physicians and scientists. See article here.
Mid September, 2007 — Insite sets up a detox floor with 12 beds on the second floor of the building. It’s called Onsite.
October 1, 2007 — B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell expresses public support for the injection site.
March 31, 2008 — The Expert Advisory Committee completes its report on Insite research prepared for Tony Clement.
Click here to read the report
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May 27, 2008
April 2008 — The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and the Portland Hotel Society mount a constitutional challenge of the federal government’s power to close the facility arguing that the site addresses a public health crisis.
— Justice Ian Pitfield of the BC Supreme Court rules that the federal government does not have the authority to close Insite. Pitfiled grants Insite an immediate exemption and gives the federal government until June 30, 2009 to amend the country’s drug laws to allow for medical use of drugs if tied to a health care initiative.
|Watch Tony Clement's comment calling Insite an "abomination"
— Tony Clement slams Insite at the 2008 International Conference on AIDS in Mexico City. He calls Insite an abomination.
Click here to watch his comment.
October 8, 2008
— PIVOT legal Society writes to the Auditor General asking for an investigation into the RCMP’s actions regarding Insite.
April 27, 2009 — Date set for the B.C. Court of Appeal to hear the federal government’s appeal of Justice Pitfield’s ruling. The B.C. Court of Appeal has set aside three days to hear the appeal. The B.C. government is already an intervener, and it’s expected the B.C. Civil Liberties Association will apply to intervene in support of Insite.