Friday, April 3, 2015


Expanding supervised injections draws criticism

By Ada Slivinski, QMI Agency Vancouver
Vancouver's Insite is located on Hastings Street. (FILE PHOTO, 24 HOURS)
Vancouver's Insite is located on Hastings Street. (FILE PHOTO, 24 HOURS)
Vancouver Coastal Health’s strategy to bring supervised injection services to community health centres across the city has drawn criticism from one of the most prominent recovery experts in Vancouver.
“This strategy is, in my opinion, monstrous,” said David Berner, the executive director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada. “It’s based on a belief system that’s completely false,” he said, explaining that harm reduction assumes “addicts are addicts for life and they must be kept comfortable.”
He said that treatment focused on recovery helps people overcome the challenge of addiction and get back to living their life.

“I’ve helped thousands of addicts get clean and sober. I can’t imagine handing an addict a needle,” said Berner.

A long-time critic of harm reduction, Berner said that helping addicts use is “a confirmation of (their) world-view that (they) don’t deserve a good life.”

He likened supervised injections to condoning other destructive behaviours.

“If you knew that your daughter was cutting herself, would you spend 20 minutes sterilizing her razor blades?”

In their Downtown Eastside Second Generation Health Strategy, VCH outlines a goal to “(pursue) the development of supervised injection capacity in community health centres and other key service locations across the DTES and Vancouver.”

They also plan to increase the operating hours of Insite, opening “earlier in the day for this high demand period.”

Berner said governments need to put more money towards recovery to help people overcome addictions.
“There’s a common mantra in this business: the rich get treatment, the poor get methadone,” he said.

Proponents of harm reduction say their approach works.

“The purpose of harm reduction is to reduce harm while connecting you to other health care,” said Anna Marie D’Angelo, VCH media spokesperson.

Berner said the B.C. government can learn from the federal government in Ottawa, which is funding recovery programs. Ottawa passed Bill C-2 - the Respect for Communities Act - which makes more stringent regulations for the establishment of other stand-alone supervised-injection facilities like Insite.


  1. Right on David! You said it in the most concise, clear statement! Harm Reduction assumes that addicts can't recover! Keep up the incredible work and organizing. Soon the recovered crowd will over come the confused, negative voice of the Harm Production minority!