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Vancouver's InSite becomes a political football

This Magazine Staff

In this election, and in most others, strong words are common and as plentiful as the air we breathe. Stephane Dion has been pegged an effete, weak-chinned, intellectual; Jack Layton, a crude Barack Obama imitation; and Stephen Harper, stone-hearted and disengaged. Well now Harper can add “genocidal” to the list. Dr. Julio Montaner, a researcher on HIV/AIDS, accused the Harper government, on monday, of practicing the worst of all criminal activities due to their support of closing down Vancouver’s supervised drug injection facility, known also as InSite.
Montaner’s problem with this is that InSite, as some studies have shown, has done quite a bit to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, with nurses providing clean needles.
I understand the intuition behind the Conservatives’ position. It’s something like this: all things being equal, we should not assist others in their acts of self-harm. But, of course, the real world is messy and complex, and it forces us to do things we might not like for the benefit of greater goods. And there is a greater good with InSite. The drug addict is better off with this alternative to sharing needles and risking transmitting diseases.
If you feel the same way, you have an alternative as well. From the Globe and Mail, Layton this monday on InSite: “All of the evidence indicates that this is a way that we can help people, and it is tragic that the federal government is not providing that support,” he said at a campaign stop in Montreal. “It saves lives.”

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