InSite was opened in 2003 under an exemption from federal drug laws. The current federal government attempted to let that exemption lapse - a way to shutter the operation - but the court today instructed the government to continue to grant the exemption, as InSite "has proven successful".
"Insite has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area. It is supported by the Vancouver police, the city and provincial governments," the court wrote in its ruling.
"Its benefits have been proven," the ruling also said. "There has been no discernable negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation."
The current federal government's position on InSite was reflected in former Minister of Health Tony Clement's remarks at the XVII International AIDS Conference conference in Mexico City in 2008: "Allowing and/or encouraging people to inject heroin into their veins is not harm reduction, it is the opposite. We believe it is a form of harm addition." The Conservatives also argued that resources would be better spent on prevention and tougher drug laws.
InSite was the first such facility in North America. Today's ruling suggests that similar safe injection sites could be opened in other provinces across the country.
Canada's Supreme Court to Rule on Injection Site
September 28, 2011
This Friday at 9:45am EDT, the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to render a decision on whether Vancouver's safe injection program will be allowed to continue to operate.
Supported by the City of Vancouver, the government of BC, and Vancouver Coast Health, InSite is North America's first legal supervised injection site. Drug users who participate at InSite can safely inject intravenous drugs with clean needles while being advised about health care services and addiction treatment programs.
A study published in a British medical journal in April 2011 - with research from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS - found that overdose fatalities dropped by 35% since InSite first began operating in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, an area whose drug problems have been well documented.
InSite was opened in 2003 with exemptions from federal drug laws. The exemptions were first provided by the then-Liberal federal government, and continued in 2006 under the Conservatives. However, in 2008, the Conservative government sought to deny further exemptions for the program, setting up a series of lower court decisions (in favour of InSite) and appeals (by the government) that have led up to Friday's announcement.