Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a Vancouver health clinic for intravenous drug users is an allowable exception to the nation’s drug laws. Even though the clinic’s clean needles and HIV testing services are credited with reducing the incidence of AIDS, conservative groups opposed its operation because local police overlooked drug possession and usage laws within.
“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.
HIV/AIDS activists in British Columbia are celebrating the ruling. (Tipped by JMG reader Mike)