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NDP concerned politics will interfere in keeping Insite open

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver’s safe injection site is waiting on Ottawa to renew their exemption from the Controlled Drug and Substances Act once again, but the Federal NDP health critic is concerned politics will get in the way of keeping the doors open.

Even though the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2011 Ottawa must allow the safe injection site to continue operating, Vancouver-East Member of Parliament Libby Davies says recent political moves have her worried.

“I guess I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the tremendous support that insite has is enough to be able to convince the Federal Government if they try to close down Insite they will have massive opposition on their hands.”

Davies believes the Conservative Government isn’t even aware of how many lives have been saved by having nurses supervise injectable drug use on the Downtown East Side.

Libby Davies says the proposed Respect for Communities Act¬†introduced in October, along with the Conservative’s online petition coined “Keep heroin out of our backyards,” have her worried.

“The Conservatives have really politicized this issue. This is basically a health service to stop people from dying from overdoses, and help people get the treatment and the help they need. It’s that basic, it’s that straightforward,” says Davies.

If passed, the act would require future safe injection sites go through a long and difficult process before they can even apply to be exempted from the Controlled Drug and Substances Act. That process includes canvassing the community, and getting several levels of government on board, along with dozens of other requirements.

“The conservatives have made it into an ideological weapon if you will. They play on people’s fear. When they brought in this new bill, at the same time they brought in this website to whip up people’s fear and fury about issues like this,” Davies adds.

Meanwhile, Viola Kaminski with Vancouver Coastal Health, who is responsible for operating Insite, says they have applied for the exemption from Health Canada, and are waiting to hear whether they have approval to stay open.

“It might be before March 31st, it may be after, but regardless we’re going to be operating as if we do have the exemption,” says Kaminski, adding “Right now it’s sitting with Health Canada, but we are confident the exemption will be renewed.”

Kaminski says with over 2-million nurse-supervised injections at Insite, there hasn’t been a single overdose death.