B.C.'s public health officer is hopeful federal Health Minister Jane Philpott's support of Vancouver's supervised injection site leads to a repeal of a bill he says is blocking similar sites.
"It's hugely encouraging. It means that science, compassion, common sense are going to hopefully come to the fore when we look at these kind of harm reduction initiatives," said Dr. Perry Kendall.
"It was a very moving experience for me. I wanted to commend all of those who had worked so hard to make it possible and to encourage them and let them know that our government will continue to work to reduce harm to Canadians," she said.
Kendall says Bill C-2, passed by Stephen Harper's conservatives last year, places serious hurdles in the way of bringing more places like Insite to B.C., and Canada:
"It was clearly designed as an obstacle to further supervised injection sites."
Under C-2, an exemption must be granted to any government hoping to open such an establishment, which requires a large amount of documentation.
"It places huge, almost insuperable barriers in terms of the information that has to be gathered, letters of support," said Kendall.
Canada's only other supervised injection site, also in Vancouver, is the Dr. Peter Centre. For the past 13 years, it had been operating by the grace of the province and police who turned a blind eye to what was technically illegal drug use inside.
The Dr. Peter Centre received an exemption last week and can now continue operations legally. But it applied for the exemption before Bill C-2 passed, and was granted an exemption to a different law. What if it had applied for an exemption to Bill C-2?
"They would have had extraordinary difficulties doing it, even in an environment where you have political support, policing support, neighbourhood support and provincial support," Kendall said.