Vancouver’s controversial Insite clinic can stay open, the Supreme Court said Friday in a landmark ruling.
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that not allowing the clinic to operate under an exemption from drug laws would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court ordered the federal minister of health to grant an immediate exemption to allow Insite to operate.
“Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation,” the ruling said, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
If Insite wasn’t allowed to operate it would prevent injection drug users from accessing the health services offered at the facility, threatening their health and their lives, the ruling said. Withdrawing the exemption would even undermine the purpose of the federal drug law, which includes public health and safety, the court said.
The Supreme Court said that if the health minister, currently Leona Aglukkaq, receives applications for more exemptions, she must continue to exercise her discretion and aim to strike a balance between charter rights and protecting public health and safety.
Where there is no evidence that a supervised injection site would have a negative impact on public safety, the minister “should generally grant an exemption,” the court said.
The Conservative government is opposed to the Insite operation, and when it came to power it dropped harm reduction from the national anti-drug strategy. Aglukkaq said Friday the government’s investments are targeted at prevention and treatment.
“Although we are disappointed with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision today, we will comply,” Aglukkaq said in question period. “We believe that the system should be focused on preventing people from becoming drug addicts.”
Aglukkaq said the government planned on reviewing the decision.
While the ruling is a victory for Insite, the Supreme Court said it “is not a licence for injection drug users to possess drugs wherever and whenever they wish.”
“Nor is it an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a ‘safe injection facility,'” said the court.
For the full story, go to: Vancouver’s Insite drug injection clinic will stay open