Saturday, November 23, 2013


November 22, 2013

Audit targets agency running renowned Vancouver supervised-injection site


Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing are conducting review on PHS Community Services 


The community agency that runs Canada's only safe-injection site, as well as numerous housing projects and social enterprises for troubled residents of the Downtown Eastside, is now having its finances audited by both of its two major government funders.

Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed to The Globe and Mail this week that PHS Community Services, commonly known in the city as the Portland, is being audited to determine "whether PHS has the financial capacity to provide the services to clients it is contracted for."

The agency has agreements worth $8.5-million from the regional health authority through 19 contracts. News of the health authority audit follows confirmation two weeks ago that BC Housing is also conducting a financial review of the Portland's finances.

It's a troubling development for the 20-year-old organization, renowned for the scope of its services in the Downtown Eastside that go far beyond what other housing non-profits do.

PHS runs the city's main supervised-injection site, Insite, the Pigeon Park credit union, a health clinic, half a dozen social enterprises ranging from a laundry to honey-making and chocolate-making operations and 950 units of housing spread out among 16 sites for some of the most difficult-to-house people in the city.

Its founders, Mark Townsend and Liz Evans, have won awards for their work and attracted the attention of national politicians and international celebrities, most recently English superstar comedian and commentator Russell Brand, who visited Insite earlier this fall.

They're also legendary for being willing to go to the wall in public campaigns for programs and services, sometimes fighting with their own funders. The group started the lawsuit against the federal government to keep the city's supervised-injection site open, eventually winning the case.

But the financial operations for this complex empire have always been a subject of mystery and interest to those in the Downtown Eastside world.

PHS's filings to Revenue Canada, required for charities, indicate it owns $58-million worth of property. Those filings also indicate it paid six people in its organization between $120,000 and $160,000 last year, and another four between $80,000 and $120,000 – significantly more than any of the other big housing non-profits that operate in the Downtown Eastside.


Mr. Townsend, BC Housing and the health authority have all avoided commenting on the specifics of the audit and financial review.

"In the case of PHS, we also understand they have faced some recent financial challenges, so this has given us additional reason to pursue that line of inquiry," Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

There are no court records indicating that PHS has unpaid creditors asking for money.

Mr. Townsend said PHS is working with both groups of financial reviewers to see what can be improved.
"We provide a lot of cost-efficient, effective services but that doesn't mean we can't do better."

Asked about the number of high salaries, he said that the group's global administration fee, as set by its funders, is nine per cent and PHS has stayed within that.

He said PHS employs a number of professionals – doctors, psychiatrists and others – whose services cost a lot.

He also emphasized the agency has a proven track record of service in the city.

"We've been operating for 20 years. In that time, we've provided important services for a group of difficult people, all within a context of a challenging financial framework."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wilks speaks out on safe injection sites
By Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Published: November 13, 2013 08:45 AM
Updated: November 13, 2013 08:468 AM
Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks registered his opposition to safe injection sites during a debate in the House of Commons last week.

Last week, the House was discussing second reading of a bill proposed by the Conservative government called the Respect For Communities Act.

If passed, the act will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to give government greater control over when and where safe injection sites are approved.

"The Respect For Communities Act came about as a result of communities across Canada enquiring about safe injection sites," MP Wilks told the Townsman on Tuesday.

The Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver has been operating for a decade, as a safe place where people inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment, to housing and community supports.

"Insite has been operating in Vancouver for just over 10 years, and other communities have been enquiring," said MP Wilks. "But there is no regulation or policy with regard to how that would be from the perspective of public consultation and all of the other aspects that come with it. This act was brought forward to deal with those questions."

In the House of Commons on November 4, Wilks spoke up in favour of the Respect For Communities Act, and against supervised injection sites.

"Canadian families expect and deserve safe and healthy communities in which to live and work. That is why our government has consistently delivered the tools needed for all parties to contribute to keeping our streets and communities safe," he began.

"All controlled substances have the potential to be abused. That is why they are called controlled substances. However, the risks are increased when those substances are unregulated and untested and are bought on the street, as illegal drugs often are.

"For this reason, our government is recommending amendments to the act, through the bill currently before the House, that would strengthen the legislation and better protect Canadian families and communities."

The Respect For Communities Act came about after a 2011 Supreme Court decision that found safe injection sites legal when approved, and identified criteria that should be considered in approving sites, such as local conditions that indicate a need for the site, community support or opposition, and its impact on crime rates.

"These drugs are inherently dangerous. They are illegal for a reason. We know that the proceeds from the sale of these substances contribute to organized crime and make our streets and communities less safe," Wilks said in the House.

"It is easy to lose sight of what we are talking about. I can tell members, from personal experience in my former career as a police officer, that heroin is, without a doubt, one of the most addictive drugs known. It is physically and psychologically addictive. It is one of the worst, if not the worst, drugs to come off of. Think about the worst days and times anyone in this place has had, and multiply it by 100. People addicted to this drug will do anything for their next fix, including, but not limited to, shoplifting, robbery, break and enter, assault, and many other Criminal Code offences.

"I urge all members of this House to stand and support the Respect For Communities Act and help give Canadian families safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children."

In response, NDP MP Libby Davies for Vancouver East asked Wilks if he would support a supervised injection facility in his community.

"I personally would not support any safe injection site anywhere in Canada," he responded.

Speaking to the Townsman on Tuesday, Wilks went over the debate and why he has taken this position.

"My issue with safe injection sites is that most of these people have underlying issues that need to be dealt with and we need to find ways of having more recovery houses and those types of opportunities for these people," he said.

"We shouldn't be promoting or condoning the use of an illegal drug that in my opinion is one of the worst drugs known. It's a nasty drug; there's no other way of putting it."

The focus should instead be on treatment for addictions, he went on.

"We need treatment facilities, we need recovery centres, we need more mental health facilities. That's the larger issue of that type of scenario," said Wilks.

The Respect For Communities Act is at second reading now. If passed, it will go to a committee, then returned for third reading. If passed, it will go to the Senate for approval.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Heroin Prescription Lawsuit Challenges Closure Of Federal Exemption 

VANCOUVER - A constitutional court challenge has been launched over the federal government's decision to prevent doctors from prescribing heroin to addicts.

Providence Health Care, which operates St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, says its lawsuit involves five patients who have been part of a clinical trial known as SALOME (sah-LOH-may).
The SALOME trial examined a specific form of prescription heroin and operated under a federal exemption, but patients who left the trial are no longer covered under that exemption.

Doctors in Vancouver had obtained federal approval to prescribe the heroin to 21 patients who left the trial, but last month Health Minister Rona Ambrose introduced new regulations to close what she described as a "loophole" that allowed the drug to be dispensed.

Dianne Doyle, CEO of Providence Health Care, says the patients are extremely vulnerable and haven't benefited from other treatments such as methadone.

The lawsuit alleges the new federal regulations violate the patients' charter rights and it is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to throw out the revised federal rules.



Get ready...coming to a neighbourhood near you soon...

Oops, it's already here.

It'll just get worse.

It's a long-known social phenomenon called "normalization."

Read it:

Monday, October 28, 2013


This piece was a Vancouver Sun op-ed. It says a lot about why the DTES continues to be a hell hole. Add to this a recent report from a friend that the number of long-time clean and sober Narcotics Anonymous celebrants has markedly declined since the opening of Insite. Read on...

 Opinion: City plan for DTES ill-conceived

 Proposal to allow only social housing and rental units will keep area crime-ridden and impoverished
Opinion: City plan for DTES ill-conceived

Downtown Eastside poverty activists and their supporters rally to decry the gentrification of the DTES and to protest against the impending construction of condominiums and high-end restaurants in the area.

Photograph by: Jason Payne Jason Payne , PNG

Do you think there should be neighbourhoods in Vancouver where new rental housing is not permitted?

Do you think there should be neighbourhoods in Vancouver where new ownership housing is not permitted?

I pose these questions because the recent Vancouver city council report on neighbourhood planning proposes zoning changes in the Downtown Eastside to effectively prevent any new ownership housing for the foreseeable future.

More specifically, new residential developments would require 60 per cent social housing and 40 per cent rental units. This would be a departure from the current policy allowing a broader mix of tenures with 20 per cent social housing and 80 per cent rental and/or affordable ownership housing.

According to the staff report, this recommendation follows extensive planning consultation in the community that has involved the city manager, general manager community services, general manager planning and development services, director of social policy, and assistant directors of housing and planning and staff.

In my opinion, this proposal is outrageous and ill-conceived from a community social planning perspective.

It is extremely poor social engineering, and if approved, would allow the DTES to remain the worst crime-ridden and impoverished ghetto in any Canadian city.

A zoning bylaw prohibiting home ownership would be a contradiction of everything planners know about creating healthy neighbourhoods. To the best of my knowledge, it would be the first time in North America that a municipal bylaw creates a rental zone, where residents are not allowed to buy a new home.

This proposal is also wrong from various financial perspectives.

Today, there are limited senior government funds for social housing, and increases are unlikely. Rich Coleman, the provincial minister responsible for housing, recently told an Urban Development Institute luncheon he intends to limit funding for new social housing projects to only those in greatest need, namely the homeless and others suffering from mental illness and addictions.

Coleman prefers to see provincial funding go toward shelter allowances for needy households so they can be better integrated into existing buildings, without everyone knowing who is living on government assistance. He adds this approach will also house four times as many people for the same dollars.

I also question how much rental housing will be built under the new zoning. While Vancouver politicians boast about the recent increase in new rental housing starts, in nearly every case, these projects have proceeded because the city has granted exceptional density bonuses and/or forgiven the development cost charges that are normally collected to pay for much-needed community amenities.
So one might ask, given the questionable economics and contradiction with professional planning wisdom, why would city staff be recommending this approach?

To answer this question, one needs to examine the politics of the DTES.

From my experience as a founding director of the Building Community Society, a DTES non-profit organization formed to improve living conditions for local residents, a very small number of activists have a remarkable level of influence in the community.

While I was volunteering, they opposed a neighbourhood spring cleanup, which I hoped would have had a positive effect like the successful “broken windows” initiative in New York.

They even opposed asking the government for an increase in the shelter component of welfare, claiming this would simply put more money in the pockets of landlords.

More significantly, they consistently opposed any new condominium housing, even in mixed tenure developments like Woodward’s.

They claimed it would lead to gentrification and attract new residents who would make local residents feel uncomfortable.

Sadly, these same activists appear to have convinced city staff that condominiums should be banned, despite the reality that there is so much government-funded social housing in the area, low-income households will never be forced out to make way for the gentry.

While local residents should have a say in the future of the DTES, I believe the rest of us, especially those who like me are disgusted and ashamed of what continues to be allowed to happen to this neighbourhood, should speak up as well.

Council has now agreed to extend the DTES community consultation until Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, I would encourage every Vancouver resident to take a walk around Hastings and Main and consider whether a ban on allowing people to purchase homes in this neighbourhood really seems like a sensible planning approach.

If you agree it is not, you should instruct council to direct city staff to come forward with a more thoughtful, considered, and positive plan; one which might hopefully contribute to the transformation of the DTES into a truly healthy and diverse community.

Michael Geller is a registered architect and planner. From 1974-77, as manager, social housing for CMHC, he helped create a number of social housing projects in the DTES.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


CITY JOURNAL is a powerful and influential "second voice" American newsletter. It is followed religiously by policy makers and policy critics across the USA.

In the spring of 1997, Theodore Dalrymple published a very thorough and smart piece titled:

Don’t Legalize Drugs
Advocates have almost convinced Americans that legalization will remove most of the evil that drugs inflict on society. Don’t believe them.

The article is lengthy and thoughtful and well your reading. Find is HERE. 

Friday, October 4, 2013


I never thought I would see this in my lifetime, but it has truly happened. The Federal Government has made a sane and reasonable and knowledge-based and compassionate decision regarding addictions. Congratulations to Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


Ottawa overrules health officials on Vancouver heroin replacement study


Health Canada had approved prescribing of heroin as part of Vancouver study; new regulations overrule the department


Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced regulations on Thursday aimed at overriding a decision by officials in her department to allow the prescribing of heroin in a Vancouver research study.


OTTAWA — The Harper government announced regulations Thursday aimed at denying heroin to Vancouver addicts involved in clinical research.

The move was made less than a year after the former federal health minister said political interference in the drug approval process was a “recipe for disaster.”

Health Canada last week approved prescribing heroin to the study participants.

But that decision was overruled by the regulations that Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced Thursday. Meanwhile, the Conservative party has launched a fundraising drive linked to the issue.

“The prime minister and I do not believe we are serving the best interests of those addicted to drugs and those who need our help the most by giving them the drugs they are addicted to,” Ambrose said at a news conference in Toronto.

“The answer of course is not to treat heroin addiction with heroin. … Our goal must be to take heroin out of the hands of addicts. We must focus on treatment and we must focus on recovery.”
The regulations, which took immediate effect, will “protect the integrity” of Health Canada’s special access to medication program by denying doctors the right to use it to provide illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine to patients, she said.

The special access program provides emergency access to medicines not yet available in Canada to doctors treating patients with “serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or unavailable,” according to Health Canada.

Ambrose’s decision relates to 21 participants in a major clinical trial, all chronic long-term addicts who had failed to respond to methadone treatment.

Their approvals to access the heroin won’t be revoked, though they can’t be renewed after the permits expire in three months, according to Scott Bernstein, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society in Vancouver who represents their interests.

The trial was an attempt to determine if hydromorphone, a legal opioid painkiller, can work as an alternative maintenance treatment over diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin.

The study’s proponents say ongoing provision of heroin, or a substitute without heroin’s “emotional and regulatory barriers,” keep addicts involved in the health care system, improve their chances of eventually breaking their habits and/or finding housing or employment, and sharply reduces the likelihood of their return to back alleys, dirty needles and crime.

Ambrose’s rebuke of Health Canada’s approvals coincided with a fundraising letter sent to Tory supporters by party official Fred DeLorey.

“I was shocked to learn today that Health Canada approved applications to give heroin to addicts — against the wishes of our elected government,” he stated. “We’re going to take steps to make sure this never happens again — but we need your help. If the NDP or Liberals are elected in 2015, you can bet they would make this heroin-for-addicts program permanent.”

The government’s approach received a scathing rebuke in Vancouver from the program’s supporters.
“The minister is medically, morally and ethically wrong,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and an internationally prominent advocate for so-called “harm reduction” measures.

“This again falls into a pattern on the part of the federal government of acting based on ideology, while ignoring the science.”

Both Montaner and Bernstein, the Pivot Legal Society lawyer, said the announcement contradicts that of Ambrose’s predecessor less than a year ago.

Then health minister Leona Aglukkaq, in a letter to her provincial and territorial counterparts, rejected a request to delay the approval of generic versions of the highly-addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin, also known as “Hillbilly Heroin.”

“A drug approval process based on politics is a recipe for disaster,” Aglukkaq said.

Bernstein said legal action may be considered to fight the decision. Supporters of harm reduction efforts won a major legal battle when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2011 against the federal government’s bid to shut down Insite, the supervised injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


The following thoughts were sent in from Al Arsenault, our friend and colleague with the Odd Squad and the Drug Prevention Network.
The 'successes' just seem to  keep rolling in. I wonder what the costs are for making drug use acceptable and even 'safe' for we all know that when the perceptions of risk about using drugs  goes down the amount of use goes up. Also, what does it cost in terms of the loss of human potential to keep people stuck in their active addiction rather than to reclaim that proud and productive person which  lies dormant within the empty shell of a human being who us addicted to these poisons?

They consider the saving of a few people from the sea of diseases to be worth it all when legions of lives can be resurrected from the dirty and deadly cesspool that the  (now soft-lipped) crackers now flounder in.

They say that we, who are willing to lead them into  (ill-funded) treatment, lack compassion. 

I cannot wait until the day that the SIS 'studies' have been debunked as pure scientism so that we can forge ahead with real and meaningful salvation instead of Band-Aiding these poor souls to death. Perhaps this is but a pipe dream.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The News Ain't All it's Cracked up to between the lines.

There is a full page article in the Vancouver Sun today serenading the opening of the new Mental Health & Substance Use facility at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

(Note that we always say Substance Use. If a fella were to accidentally say "Substance Abuse," he might find himself in solitary confinement.)

This symphony of excitement tells us about The 8,000 visits that will surely appear and the wonderful toys and the millions of dollars expended on this new miracle.

But when you read the fine print, as any buyer must, you find this note about the new staff: a specialist in substance use services.

Make that  "a" as in ONE.

One designated genius to handle substance use and abuse issues.

Now, this is progress.

This is how authorities move forward.

Congrats. Slap yourself on the back a few more times.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Addicts Don't Need InSite, They Need Support

This piece in the Huffington Post, written by Kathryn Marshall, lawyer, columnist and political commentator, was sent to us by Sean Heaney who runs a wonderful and dedicated small recovery centre on the east side of town.

Last week's controversy over Health Canada's funding of a program to give heroin to select addicts is like déjà vu. It's an awful lot like the conflicts the federal government has had with similar drug programs over the years. The Insite supervised injection clinic in Vancouver's renowned Downtown Eastside is the most famous example, where addicts can go to inject heroin under the supervision of nurses. Centres likes these are sometimes called "safe injection" sites, which is truly an oxymoron considering that these harmful drugs are anything but safe.

There has long been a debate raging in Canada over how best to help people who are addicted to dangerous, illegal drugs. It's been played out in the court rooms and among politicians and policy makers on repeat, yet we don't seem to be getting closer to actually helping addicts in the Downtown Eastside recover.

All it takes is one trip over to the Downtown Eastside and you can see for yourself that centres like Insite are doing little to get the addicts off the street and into places where they can get off drugs and get their lives on track. Arguably, places like Insite are actually making addictions worse by enabling the drug use and sending the message that it's "okay" to use drugs, so long as it's done "safely."

The Downtown Eastside is an extreme example that represents only a small part of the problem. Drug and alcohol addiction are serious problems in communities across the country that often exist in privacy behind closed doors, not in full view on street corners.

Marshall Smith is an addiction expert who knows first-hand what it's like to be stuck in the depths of an addiction. Ten years ago he was a successful political staffer with a bright career ahead of him. Then someone offered him some cocaine, and he was instantly hooked. His life derailed and he spent years living as a homeless addict, including in the Downtown Eastside. Smith recovered, and is now the Manager of Corporate Development and Community Relations for Cedars at Cobble Hill, an addiction treatment center on Vancouver Island.

According to Smith, in order to craft a successful strategy to deal with addiction, government policy makers need to be talking to people who have actually beat their addictions and are living in long-term recovery. "If they want to help individuals and communities recover, they need to listen to people in recovery from this disease. They need to ask people in recovery how they got well and what is required to successfully support yourself in recovery" says Smith.

The problem that Marshall sees with current drug policies and programs is that they are focused on the maintenance of people's addictions and disease prevention, not on the recovery. The questions policy makers seem to be asking is "how can we make it safer for addicts to do drugs?", not "how can we get addicts off of drugs and help them get their lives together?"

So instead of developing more recovery programs, more programs are developed that give addicts access to drugs and tools that keep them stuck in the depths of their addictions.

Neal Berger, the Executive Director of the Cedars Cobble Hills Treatment Center, is calling on the government to fund and execute a national research study on people who are living in long-term recovery from their addiction. He sees real value in studying people who are successfully managing their illness. It's this valuable insight that can lead to effective policy to help addicts achieve recovery.

Berger is encouraging the government to sit down and talk to people who have overcome their addictions. "Like many other diseases, addiction is a chronic illness that needs to be rigorously managed through participation in recovery focused programs" says Berger.

Smith likens this approach to any other strategy one would employ to beat a disease, asking "can you imagine building a cancer strategy without engaging cancer survivors?"

Getting addicts into recovery is easier said than done. Smith knows all too well the challenging road it takes to get there, and a system that enables addictions certainly doesn't make it any easier. A system that actively pushes addicts towards recovery and draws on the real experiences of those who have recovered could make all the difference.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


PAM McCOLL, who iss the local push behind SAM - Smart Approaches to Marijuana - has set this Letter to the Editor, which the Sun will publish  tomorrow or Monday.

Harper needs to stop cracking jokes and take responsibility for embarrassing the nation.

Early this year UNICEF revealed that more Canadian kids smoke marijuana than anywhere else in the western world and the Prime Minister is cracking jokes about Sir John A. MacDonald
and his( Harper's)  own sobriety.

A UNICEF report released in the spring of 2013 ranked Canada first out of 29 countries on the percentage of young people smoking pot. 28 per cent of the 11 - 15-year-old Canadian children surveyed said they had smoked marijuana during the last year. This is an embarrassment for our country and a very sad comment on the effect the Harper government has had on prevention and education. This is a public health crisis and political pundIts are arguing over legalization and decriminalization when the majority of the pot market is under age and will continue to be regardless of effort to legalize. The legalization of marijuana could well increase access and availability to the youth market and enhance not dilute the criminal distribution of pot in this country.

CNN ( Anderson Cooper ) news reported that in the State of Colorado three young people died from synthetic marijuana use and 150 were hospitalized this week but that went pretty much unreported in this weeks Canadian media.

Few of the 90% of Canadians who don't use marijuana understand what legalization or decriminalization looks like and the discussion needs to move to what commercialization, and normalizing marijuana would mean to our kids. Anyone who downplays the risks and harm marijuana poses to youth will at some point in the near future be called out. In the meantime where on earth is Health Canada and the advocates for public health in this country ? Politicians sit down until this country has had a change to discuss this in depth and say no if someone asks you to sign a call for referendum at this time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Is InSite Really All It's Cracked Up To Be? 


Ten years ago this week, Insite, North America's first supervised drug injection site, opened at 139 East Hastings in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, thanks mainly to two men, Dr. Julio Montaner and Thomas Kerr of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

It's an amazing story.

Since 2003, folks in Canada's most drug-infested neighbourhood have been buying heroin, cocaine and crystal meth on the street, strolling into InSite and shooting-up under the watchful eye of government nurses. All in the name of harm reduction, a philosophy of addiction treatment through enablement.
How'd they do it?

Early last decade, Montaner and Kerr lobbied for an injection site. In 2003, the Chretien Liberals acquiesced, gave the greenlight to B.C.'s Ministry of Health, which, through Vancouver Coastal Health, gave nearly $1.5 million to the BC Centre (that's Montaner and Kerr, you remember them) to evaluate a three-year injection site trial in Vancouver.

Voila! InSite was born.

If the three-year trial was successful, or in other words, if InSite's chief lobbyists, who received $1.5 million from taxpayers to study its pros and cons, concluded that InSite was a good fit for Vancouver, the provincial government would consider funding it in perpetuity. Amazing.

Through Freedom of Information legislation, I obtained a copy of the $1.5 million contract, which tasked the BC Centre to "evaluate the process, impacts and economic elements" of InSite and note "any adverse events that may occur."

Yet every study produced by the BC Centre since 2003 has cast InSite in a positive light. Every study. And the BC Centre is very protective of its conclusions.

For example. In 2009, the BC Centre released a report summarizing 33 InSite studies, all co-authored by Thomas Kerr, all singing InSite's praises. At that time, I interviewed Kerr who bristled at my questions, claiming that his researchers "passed the test of independent scientific peer review and got our work published in the best medical journals in the world, so we don't feel like we need to be tried in the popular media."

I asked him about the potential conflict of interest (lobbyists conducting research) and he ended the interview with a warning. "If you took that one step further you'd be accusing me of scientific misconduct, which I would take great offense to. And any allegation of that has been generally met with a letter from my lawyer."

Was I being unfair? InSite is a radical experiment, new to North America and paid for by taxpayers. Kerr and company are obligated to explain their methods and defend their philosophy without issuing veiled threats of legal action.

In the media, Kerr frequently mentions the "peer review" status of his studies, implying that studies published in medical journals are unassailable. Rubbish. Journals often publish controversial studies to attract readers -- publication does not necessarily equal endorsement. The InSite study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a favourite reference of InSite champions, appeared as a "letter to the editor" sandwiched between a letter about "crush injuries" in earthquakes and another on celiac disease.
Yet Kerr thunders away like Moses. Where did he obtain this astonishing sense of entitlement?
Two words: the media.

The reportage on InSite by Vancouver's print and broadcast media does not meet, by any definition, basic standards of professional journalism. It's been shameful.

When the BC Centre stages a press conference, it's always the same formula. A handful of Kerr-authored studies and an obligatory recovering addict who owes his life to InSite. The reporters in attendance nod along and write or broadcast the same story with the same quotes and BC Centre statistics.
If a story involves an InSite skeptic such as Dr. Don Hedges, an addictions expert from New Westminster or David Berner, a drug treatment counsellor with more than 40 years of experience, it almost always includes a familiar narrative propagated by the BC Centre. InSite opponents are blinded by ideology; conservative moralists who care little about the poor and addicted. InSite proponents, on the other hand, are pure and unburdened, following the facts and relying on science.

Really? What kind of "science" produces dozens of studies, within the realm of public health, a notoriously volatile research field, with positive outcomes 100 per cent of the time? Those results should raise the eyebrows of any first-year stats student.

And who's more likely to be swayed by personal bias? InSite opponents, questioning government-sanctioned hard drug abuse? Or Montaner, Kerr and their handful of acolytes who've staked their careers on InSite's survival? From 2003 to 2011, the BC Centre received $2,610,000 from B.C. taxpayers to "study" InSite. How much money have InSite critics received?

There has never been an independent analysis of InSite, yet, if you base your knowledge on Vancouver media reports, the case is closed. InSite is a success and should be copied nationwide for the benefit of humanity. Tangential links to declining overdose rates are swallowed whole. Kerr's claims of reduced "public disorder" in the neighbourhood go unchallenged, despite other mitigating factors such as police activity and community initiative. Journalists note Onsite, the so-called "treatment program" above the injection site, ignoring Onsite's reputation among neighbourhood residents as a spit-shined flophouse of momentary sobriety.

Where's the curiosity? Where did these reporters learn their craft? The BC Centre won't answer your questions? Then ask the politicians who, unlike Montaner and Kerr, operate inside the bounds of democratic accountability.

If InSite works in the Downtown Eastside, Mayor Robertson, why not Dunbar, Mount Pleasant or West Point Grey? If, God forbid, you had a child who became addicted to drugs, Minister Lake, would you refer him to InSite? Premier Clark, your government funds InSite yet shuns many abstinence-based treatment programs. Why? And so on.

For the record, my opposition to InSite is based on the countless conversations I've had with Downtown Eastside residents over the past decade, as a journalist, volunteer and friend. In my judgement, public money is better spent on treatment and recovery facilities outside the neighbourhood, which is where the vast majority of addicts settle when they finally decide to quit using drugs.

Ten years later, despite any lofty claims, for most addicts, InSite's just another place to get high.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Monday, September 9, 2013


 This just in from RECOVERY NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEMBER, Dan Rathwell, who did fantastic work for all of us and especially for the City of Ottawa.

Many thanks and congratulations, Dan.


That was the floor at Queens Park in Toronto...not at Parliament Hill in Ottawa...

In Service,

Daniel Rathwell CCADC, SAP
Substance Abuse Professional



A beautiful record of yesterday's wonderful gathering is offered here by Dr. Bill Hay. The piece includes words and many delightful pictures and a video.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Every thing a person needs to know about our big event this Sunday can be found here.

Except for this late breaking news.

RECOVERY DAY is now an officially declared Provincial Proclamation here in British Columbia.