Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security Wednesday, October 29, 2014 Chair

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security Wednesday, October 29, 2014 Chair
Standing Committee on Public Safety and
National Security
SECU
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NUMBER 035
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2nd SESSION
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EVIDENCE
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Chair
Mr. Daryl Kramp
41st PARLIAMENT
1
Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
● (1540)
[English]
The Chair (Mr. Daryl Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings,
CPC)): Colleagues, I call to order the Standing Committee on Public
Safety and National Security. This will be meeting number 35.
police. They are more heavily populated, they have higher levels of
homelessness, poverty, higher crime in both major and minor
classes, drugs, prostitution, and mental health issues.
We have witnesses today from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and other
witnesses from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Of course, this is televised.
When I became a sergeant, I remained in the district working
closely with the residents and businesses in the ByWard Market. I
represented the Ottawa Police Service on many community
committees that covered addiction problems, homelessness, prostitution, and mental health issues.
We apologize to our witnesses for any technical difficulties we've
had here today. We regret that. However, as the story goes, it is what
it is, but maybe you're blessed if you can't see us.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: I meant that simply from a visual...but I guess we
could take that a number of different ways. Maybe the chair is
opening his mouth to some criticism here.
At any rate, let's go ahead.
We have with us Matthew Skof, president of the Ottawa Police
Association. Welcome, sir.
Mr. Matthew Skof (President, Ottawa Police Association):
Thank you.
The Chair: By video conference, we have Michael McCormack,
president of the Toronto Police Association. Welcome, sir.
From the Toronto Board of Health, we have Dr. David McKeown,
Medical Officer of Health.
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for being here today.
We will start with opening statements. You have up to ten minutes,
if you wish, then we will go to our round of questioning. We will
start in the order that I have the names down here as witnesses. It
will be Mr. Skof first, followed by Mr. McCormack, followed by Mr.
McKeown.
Mr. Skof, do you have an opening statement?
Mr. Matthew Skof: I do. Thank you very much.
I would like to thank the Ministry of Public Safety for providing
me with an opportunity to speak to you today. As introduced, my
name is Matt Skof. I'm president of the Ottawa Police Association.
I've worked in policing for 18 years and have had a vast and
challenging career. I've worked in all patrol areas in the city of
Ottawa. This included the downtown community district office in the
ByWard Market, and in Vanier. For those of you who may be
unfamiliar with these areas, they present unique challenges for
For the past three years I have been serving the membership of the
Ottawa Police Association as president, representing 1,400 sworn
police officers and 600 civilians. As president, I have been called
upon many times to comment on the issue of supervised injection
sites. I believe it is more appropriate to characterize safe injection
sites as supervised sites. From a policing perspective these facilities
continue the use of highly addictive substances. While I appreciate
the argument that they are alternatives to shooting up in back alleys,
the supervised injection sites perpetuate and encourage heavy,
damaging drug use.
We are here today to consider public policy issues in relation to
injection sites. In my view, it is crucial that within this debate we
hold all the evidence up to the light for its full and careful
consideration.
Last year I participated in a press event held by ministers Leona
Aglukkaq and Steven Blaney , where new guidelines were
introduced. At that time, questions were raised about the principal
argument made by advocates of supervised sites, most particularly
the suggestion that supervised sites decrease HIV infection rates.
You can see in tab 2...and unfortunately, I didn't have it translated.
I wasn't sure if a speech had to be translated, so I apologize for that.
There are 20 copies that will be translated for you, apparently.
I have carefully examined the data, and it does cause me great
concern. I want to share that concern with this committee today.
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When we examine the data, it is noteworthy that in Ontario,
Alberta, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada the frequency of new cases of
HIV has decreased, just as it has in British Columbia. This fact
appears to have been overlooked in the arguments raised by
proponents of supervised sites. Arguments that urge you to expand
injection sites must be complete. When considering HIV rates
overall, Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces do not
permit supervised sites, and yet have comparable improvements in
HIV data. Suggesting there is a nexus between supervised sites and
improved HIV outcomes is tenuous. The evidence makes it clear that
making that claim is incomplete.
At the heart of this discussion, though, is the fundamental question
“Where will supervised sites be located?” Based on my experience,
this question is often reframed to be “Which neighbourhood will be
sacrificed?” This is given the fact that several square blocks are
allocated to the transporting of illegal narcotics that are consumed at
the supervised injection sites.
With regard to InSite, at tab 3 of my material the committee will
find photographs I took last year when I attended a conference in
Vancouver. My purpose in including these photographs is to
illustrate the challenges the business communities and local residents
face on a day-to-day basis. Nearly all of the properties had to go to
great lengths, and at times significant expense, to ensure the safety of
their clients and the security of their property.
Police encounter a number of issues in the areas allocated to
supervised sites. Most concerning is that there will be a boundary in
which the possession of illegal drugs will be tolerated. This area will
become known to drug users and traffickers within hours of its
creation. In creating injection sites, we create concentrated
trafficking zones. Traffickers will carry only enough drugs to make
small but frequent transactions. If stopped by the police, these
traffickers will claim immunity, relying on the presumption of
innocent possession within a known boundary around the supervised
injection site.
If you look at tab 4, in the first picture you can see two males, one
with a red knapsack and one with a green one. I observed the two
males working in tandem while the male with the red knapsack
trafficked drugs. In the second photograph, I observed the male in
the camouflage pants traffick drugs to the male walking away from
him in the brown jacket.
Both of these photographs were taken in close proximity to InSite.
Neither of the two persons who purchased drugs walked into InSite,
but went in the opposite direction. I stayed in the area for several
hours and observed many transactions of this nature.
We return to the fundamental question of “Do you still want to
live in this neighbourhood, or near it?” Before answering, it is
necessary to consider that these surrounding areas have increased
levels of prostitution, homelessness, and antisocial crime—theft,
burglary, and swarmings. Clients of supervised injection sites often
fall into these behaviours for the purpose of supporting their habit.
In tab 5, the photo was taken in an alley two blocks from InSite.
The male did not live in the area, but attended for the purpose of
dumpster diving and to find and sell anything of value. My
observations were confirmed when I spoke directly with this
October 29, 2014
individual. He was very candid with me that he was trying to
support his drug addiction.
● (1545)
I have no reservations in telling this committee, based on my
policing experience, that locating a supervised injection site brings
an increase in crime. These crimes extend well beyond consuming
drugs in a supervised location. Individuals who purchase drugs in
these areas often walk away from the supervised location to shoot up
in alleyways, stairwells, and parking lots within the local community.
At tab 6, I provide you with a photo of a group of people in front
of the Carnegie Community Centre in Vancouver, blocks away from
InSite and smoking what seems to be crack cocaine. I have to tell the
committee that this photograph causes me a lot of concern. In my
capacity as a police officer, I've coordinated several street-level drug
projects in the ByWard Market and the Vanier area. At no time did I
ever observe drug use in which the consumer smoked crack cocaine
sitting in front of a community centre, nor have I ever observed
someone smoking crack with such disregard for public scrutiny.
Let me be clear: I accept that we do have a drug issue in our
community. I observed it at the street level, and often on a daily
basis. When we consider alternative approaches to treating these
conditions, we must be honest with each other. In Ottawa the
distribution of rubber tips to limit the spread of disease from sharing
crack pipes failed, because the users claimed they changed the taste
of the drugs being inhaled. The needle exchange program required
volunteer needle hunters to recover used equipment. Ottawa has
many social programs trying to address these growing social
problems. Supervised injection sites might have the best intentions,
but they fail, increasing the attendant issues of trafficking,
prostitution, theft, homelessness...and the list can go on.
Ottawa invests many resources into the ByWard Market, to name
just one busy area, but adding a supervised injection site will only
necessitate a significant increase in public funds. Based on my
experience as a police officer, I would say that a preferred
investment for a government would be one in rehabilitation facilities.
Sadly, in Ottawa today there are significant wait times for persons
who want to turn their lives around. This wait time leaves a
vulnerable person at the mercy of their addiction on the street. We all
know that getting a person to a place where they know they need
help is half the battle, but we don't provide sufficient beds for them.
In closing, I would ask the committee to consider the following.
As a sergeant working on the Ottawa streets, I would never be able
to approach this committee and speak candidly. My message would
have gone through any number of official police filters. I can speak
to you today, however, because I am a representative of a police
association in Canada.
October 29, 2014
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As president of an association of professional police, I speak on
behalf of my 2,000 members. My message to you today is as candid
as I can be. My message to you is not censored by budget
constraints, or through the lens of political interests. My message
today is grounded in many years of working on the streets in Ottawa,
with dedicated and concerned police officers and civilian members.
This concludes my remarks for the committee. As always, I'm
available for your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Skof.
Now we will go to the opening statement from Mr. McCormack.
Go ahead, please, sir.
Mr. Michael McCormack (President, Toronto Police Association): Thank you.
Good afternoon. My name is Michael McCormack. I'm the
president of the Toronto Police Association. Here in Toronto I
represent one of the most diverse communities in all of Canada. I
also represent over 8,000 members.
First of all, I want to thank the standing committee for giving me
this opportunity to speak to some of our association's concerns
regarding amendments to Bill C-2.
I'd like to start off by stating that our association does not support
the current configuration of supervised safe injection sites. I'm not
here to argue the medical evidence, whether or not they reduce the
number of deaths from overdoses or prevent the spread of infectious
disease. I'm here to speak about our public safety concerns from a
policing perspective.
The goal in policing is to improve the quality of life in the
community by reducing crime and disorder and the fear of crime and
disorder, and enhancing public safety, which is something that we do
in the policing community. We believe supervised injection sites
contribute to social and economic deterioration and further
victimization where they are located. They do little to achieve our
goal in policing, which is public safety.
I've worked—again, this is from a policing perspective—in 51
Division in downtown Toronto, which is a unique division. It has the
second-highest density of government housing in North America;
almost 90% of all the halfway houses and stationary homes in
Toronto are located within the boundaries of 51 Division. I've
worked there for almost 15 years, in major crime, street crime,
dealing with all types and different levels of crime. What we found
was that in a division like this, 90% of the crimes we dealt with were
either drug or alcohol related. This is a big concern to us in the
policing community.
When we talked about where we go, when we looked at all the
anecdotal and other evidence around safe injection sites, and when
we reviewed the evaluations of these sites, we were very critical of
their methodology and the findings. We found that the public safety
issues have been downplayed or not considered, or even poorly
measured in a lot of this research.
For example, one study used only three crime types for
benchmarks: drug trafficking, assault, and robbery and vehicle theft.
Notably absent were the other crimes that from practical experience
3
we found were missing in the indicators linked to drug use, such as
break and enter, shoplifting, theft from auto, fraud, prostitution,
panhandling, selling of stolen property—not to mention the
countless provincial offences.
What we find too is that it's really hard to measure these offences,
because given the way.... We just looked at the report on unreported
crime that the federal government puts out every year. We find that
people who are using drugs—we consider them victims of drug
abuse or addiction—are very reluctant to come forward and report
when they are, in fact, the victims of crime, whether of theft, sexual
assaults, or involvement in prostitution. That's something that really
concerns us.
But overall, when I look at policing somewhere in Toronto, with
such diverse and widespread communities in different pockets
throughout this city, when we're dealing with people who are looking
to use intravenous drugs—it's not only heroin, it's also MDMA and
other types of chemicals that they inject—they call it jonesing, or
needing a fix, for a reason. We have all these communities
throughout Toronto, as I described, and we have different pockets
where you have a concentration of drug users. It's not one area where
all your intravenous drug users will be congregating or hanging out.
We found in working in the projects that the drug users will go get
their fix, and we will find needles and syringes in schoolyards,
elevators, corridors, and stairwells. The drug addicts get their drugs,
they need their fix, and they go to the nearest location where they
can have a little bit of privacy. They'll inject and then move on from
there.
● (1550)
The whole premise of having a centralized injection site really
baffles us in the policing community, because you're taking a heck of
a leap of faith to think that a person who's addicted to drugs is going
to, for instance, go to wherever the drug dealer is, buy their drugs,
get their syringes, jump on the subway or take a taxicab or ride their
bike to go to a safe injection site, and then inject—and go through
that process four or five times a day, which is what we find with
intravenous drug users. It's not a once-a-day event and then they
move on and their day is normal. They inject up to four to six times a
day.
So the logistics escape us. There needs to be some dialogue
around how this would actually work. How do people see that as
being effective? We're very puzzled about how that would be applied
to somewhere like the city of Toronto.
As I said earlier, most of the drug addicts that I've ever dealt with
as a practical matter were forced into criminality to support their
habit. Where are they going to get $100 to $200 a day, which is what
it requires to support this addiction? They do it by supporting their
habit with theft from autos, break and enters, and other types of
crimes. With that addiction they're victims, but they're victimizing
the community as well.
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October 29, 2014
Again, when we're talking about safe injection sites or supervised
injection services, you go where the market is. Drug dealers are, for
lack of a better word, business people, and they're going to go where
the market is. So if you have a safe injection site—this is some of the
experience we've found from the Vancouver experience as well—
drug dealers will go where the market is. They'll go where people are
going to use.
We also need to explore other strategies, including education and
prevention strategies, and judicial enforcement strategies—
If they're going to traffick, they'll congregate in the areas where
they can sell to the users. When we have a safe injection site, we
have people who are going to be using. The drug dealers are going to
go there, which is further going to facilitate and increase the amount
of crime and that type of activity in those neighbourhoods. So we're
very concerned about the drug dealers going there and about further
victimization of the addicts.
Mr. Michael McCormack: —yes—such as investing in drug
treatment courts with alternatives to incarceration and treatment
centres. We feel that we need to focus more on treatment and that
this is a band-aid solution to a bigger problem.
When I worked in 51 Division, I could look out the back gate of
51 Division and see a methadone clinic. That's quite a different
premise: people are getting treatment, the product is on site, and it's
managed. This is a very different concept. So we're very concerned
about the practical basis for this and how this would work.
The other concern we have from a policing perspective is that we
are the ones expected to police those areas and increase enforcement
and our presence. When we looked at it, we found in Vancouver that
there was a dip in crime around the supervised injection site, but
there were, I think, an additional 83 police officers who were put into
that area to police. We found in Toronto that whenever we increase
policing into a community, there is a significant dip. Police presence
does have an impact on crime. For us, the police, we're going to be
left mopping it up and it's going to be a demand on police resources.
Police need to be consulted and have more dialogue and evidence on
how this is going to impact our already taxed police resources.
We have some real concerns about the practical basis of this.
Again, I'm not talking from the health perspective. That's not what
I'm here to do. I'm talking from a public safety basis. From the
Vancouver experience, when the 81 police officers were surveyed, in
I think 2008, the individual officers who worked in that area said that
their perception and feeling was that there was no actual decrease in
the indicators of that type of illegal activity, whether it was public
injection of drugs—they were still cleaning up syringes and needles
from all over that community—or the congregation of people in that
area, including prostitution, and street-level crimes. We're obviously
very concerned about that, and that's something the policing
community is going to be left to deal with. So we need to have
more dialogue and see more evidence-based discussions, as Matt
referred to, around what the outcome is going to be and how this is
going to work with these communities.
● (1555)
I'll conclude my remarks by saying that we feel there needs to be
more independent research to provide a more balanced and inclusive
review of the impacts of these injection services on public safety. We
need to improve the body of research in this area with objective
studies, evaluations, and measurables that all stakeholders can agree
on. We feel that the measurables would include crime rates, disorder
indicators, property values, other economic indicators, social
indicators, and data gathered through the community, law enforcement, and multi-sector consultation.
● (1600)
The Chair: Could you very shortly wind up, please, Mr.
McCormack?
Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, sir.
Now we will go to Dr. McKeown, please.
You're on, sir.
Dr. David McKeown (Medical Officer of Health, Toronto
Board of Health): Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank the chair and the members of the committee for
the opportunity to speak with you today.
My name is Dr. David McKeown. I'm the Medical Officer of
Health for the City of Toronto and the executive officer of the
Toronto Board of Health. My remarks today are presented on behalf
of the board of health.
You should a have a copy of our full written submission.
My perspective is somewhat different from that of my law
enforcement colleagues, because I come at it from a public health
point of view. Toronto is one of several cities in Canada looking to
implement supervised injection services as part of an evidencedbased, comprehensive approach to health services for people who
inject drugs. As you know, potential operators of these services
require an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances
Act in order to legally operate, and Bill C-2 sets out the proposed
requirements for this exemption process.
The Toronto board of health considers the requirements in the act
to be excessive and quite disproportionate when compared with
processes for making decisions about other kinds of health services,
and we urge the development of a more appropriate exemption
application process.
The board also feels that the proposed bill is not consistent with
the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on supervised
injection. If Bill C-2 is passed as written, we believe it will be a
significant barrier for any community or any health system in any
province that has come to the decision that these services would
serve both the public health and public safety interests of local
residents.
October 29, 2014
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Injection drug use, as we know, is associated with significant
public health risks, including the transmission of blood-borne
diseases such as HIV and hepatitis and, of course, overdose. The
risk of overdose, in fact, is twice as high for injecting illicit drugs as
for other forms of consumption. This risk increases when people
inject alone, as no one is available to intervene or seek medical
assistance in an emergency. Without a safe place to inject, some
people turn to public spaces such as washrooms, alleyways, or the
street.
Broadly, harm reduction services tend to be effective because
they're designed to be welcoming and non-judgmental, and they
focus very specifically on the health needs of people who use drugs.
Public injecting is not only an issue for people who are homeless.
People living in shared accommodation, in shelters and temporary
housing, or rooming houses may fear losing their housing if they're
found to be injecting, and so will turn to public spaces.
Demonstrating local need for a health service is a very reasonable
requirement for an organization seeking to implement supervised
injection services, whether making that case to the provincial
government or for an exemption. However, producing scientific
evidence on the medical benefits of these services should not be
necessary at this point.
Based on these and other risk factors, the Toronto and Ottawa
supervised consumption assessment study, a research study,
concluded that Toronto, with its pattern of drug use, would benefit
from multiple small supervised injection services integrated into
existing health services, which are already serving people who inject
illicit drugs. This is a different model from the Vancouver InSite
service. The Toronto board of health supports this model and this
approach to expand a continuum of health services for the needs of
this particularly at-risk population in our city.
As you know, in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that the Minister
of Health's decision not to extend the section 56 exemption for
Vancouver's InSite service was not in accordance with the principles
of fundamental justice, and violated section 7 of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court also ruled that for future exemption
applications, the minister must exercise discretion within the
constraints imposed by the charter and aim to strike an appropriate
balance between achieving public health and public safety goals, and
both are important in this issue.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court said that the minister should
generally grant an exemption where the evidence indicates that a
supervised injection service will decrease the risk of death and
disease—that's the health interest—and where there is little or no
evidence of a negative impact on public safety.
The requirements set out in Bill C-2, we feel, rather than striking
this appropriate balance are focused much more on public safety
concerns without recognizing significant public health benefits. If we
are truly to have respect for communities, we must recognize that
harm reduction services such as supervised injection not only
provide better health outcomes for people who use drugs but they
may also help to improve public safety in local communities. For
example, as we read the research, it is shown that supervised
injection services can help reduce public drug use and the discarding
of needles, and certainly do not increase crime.
People who inject drugs are, from a public health practitioner's
point of view, among the most vulnerable members of our
community, and they often struggle with complex health and mental
health issues. They are much more likely to be victims than
perpetrators of crime, and the profound stigma and discrimination
they experience create barriers to their accessing mainstream health
and social services that the rest of the community would use.
The board of health has a number of specific concerns about the
requirements set out in Bill C-2, and I'm going to mention each of
these briefly.
● (1605)
The evidence has been reviewed over and over again. The
Supreme Court and many other health organizations have already
recognized that these services are an evidence-based health
intervention based on a wealth of peer-reviewed national and
international research.
The exemption application process laid out in Bill C-2 requires
letters from a broad range of officials outlining their opinions about
the proposed service and identifying any related concerns, along
with details of how the applicant will address those concerns. There
really is no other health service that is required to obtain a consensus
of opinion from a wide range of sector leaders in order to operate.
Bill C-2 also requires consultation with professional medical
associations and a broad range of community groups. This breadth of
consultation is likely to be beyond the capacity of most health
service organizations or health systems seeking to implement these
services. Furthermore, there's already widespread agreement among
health professional organizations—the CMA, the CNA, and so forth
—that supervised injection services should be available as a part of a
comprehensive range of interventions in health facilities that serve
people who use drugs.
The proposed bill also does not specify what would constitute an
acceptable community consultation process, including the range and
type of community groups to be consulted. Some community
engagement is prudent, and in fact good practice, in order to inform
local residents and businesses about the service, how it will operate,
and to establish mechanisms for addressing any issues that might
arise.
I think this process is part of being a good neighbour for any
health service, and it benefits everybody involved. However, it is not
reasonable to expect organizations to consult with individuals and
groups in the community who are not expected to be affected in any
way by the service.
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Bill C-2 also requires police checks for all staff who will work in
the program for the previous 10-year period, including noting any
drug offence convictions. Further, police check documentation is
required from people whose country of origin is not Canada, if the
staff member resided outside the country during the previous 10
years.
On a practical note, applicants can't really conduct police checks
in advance of submitting an exemption, because they're not likely to
be recruiting or retaining or hiring staff until they've secured the
exemption and are ready to open. Furthermore, the need for police
reports from countries outside Canada clearly discriminates against
anyone who has emigrated from an area of the world that is war-torn
or has an oppressive regime where the information is not likely to be
available.
It also discriminates against workers who have past drug offence
convictions but are now law-abiding and suitable for employment.
Workers with that kind of first-hand knowledge of the issues facing
drug users play a critical role in the delivery of harm reduction
services, as they're often able to connect better with at-risk
individuals because of their shared experience. Given that a key
goal of these programs is to engage with at-risk individuals, to link
them with health services, including treatment services, strategies
such as employing peer workers who have past experience with
drugs should not be impeded by the legislation.
Bill C-2 also allows the Minister of Health to request any other
information deemed relevant. This is a very open-ended provision in
the legislation, and depending on the inclination of the minister and
the nature of the request there could be significant further barriers.
The bill allows the minister to give public notice of an exemption
application, and the general public would have 90 days to comment,
regardless of whether they have any relationship to the application or
the proposed service at all. Both of these requirements could lead to
cumbersome delays or impediments to implementing supervised
injection services.
Legislation generally should provide clarity and certainty in public
policy on whatever issue it concerns. An overarching concern with
Bill C-2 is that there's really no indication as to whose opinions of
support or opposition or what level and what type of information
submitted would result in an application being accepted or denied. It
has been the experience of other cities that once a supervised
injection service is up and running, community concerns tend to
either be addressed or not materialize at the level in which they
might have been predicted.
This certainly has been the case in Vancouver, where both InSite
and, perhaps more significantly because it's relevant to the model
that looks more appropriate for Toronto, the Dr. Peter Centre have
secured broad community support. The emphasis in Bill C-2 in
demonstrating widespread support from many different stakeholders
does not recognize the challenge of the poor level of understanding
of the nature and benefits of supervised injection services in the
general community.
Bill C-2 imposes an onerous and complex process on the approval
of supervised injection services, which is unlike that for any other
health service. There's no indication that provincial governments,
October 29, 2014
which have constitutional responsibility for health services, were
consulted in developing the legislation, nor is there any indication
that health professionals or other organizations with expertise in
supervised injection were involved.
● (1610)
Given this lack of process and the onerous requirements laid out in
the legislation, we encourage the federal government to take the time
to go back and develop a more appropriate, practical, and wellinformed process for CDSA exemption; and further, that the
application process be developed in consultation with the appropriate
provincial public health, public safety, and community stakeholders.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. McKeown.
We will now go to our round of questioning, and we will start with
Mr. Norlock, please, for seven minutes.
Mr. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for attending today.
Mr. Skof, you related to us some of your observations when you
were in Vancouver—taking pictures, doing other observations.
When you go to court as a police officer and present those to the
court, would I be correct in calling that evidence?
Mr. Matthew Skof: If I had actually proceeded with criminal
charges, then sure, absolutely.
Mr. Rick Norlock: That would be evidence.
Mr. Matthew Skof: Yes.
Mr. Rick Norlock: So when somebody says there's an evidence
base, if you were putting together a case, that could be considered to
be evidence toward an evidence-based case.
Mr. Matthew Skof: Absolutely.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Okay.
It was also mentioned by some people....
By the way, in your comments, when you related to your political
“neutrality”, shall we say, some people here disagreed, because I
thought I heard a scoff somewhere.
Mr. Matthew Skof: No pun intended.
Mr. Rick Norlock: At any rate, getting back to the questions at
hand, one thing that was mentioned by one of the witnesses was that
some people who are being consulted may not be as qualified as
others. As I remember the evidence of the minister, part of the people
in the neighbourhood who should be consulted are parents and
parental groups.
Do you believe that parents and business owners in neighbourhoods are qualified to judge whether or not they would like a
supervised injection site in their neighbourhood?
Mr. Matthew Skof: I would say it's actually critical to have their
opinion.
October 29, 2014
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Mr. Rick Norlock: Would you say the police officers and people
whose job it is to make sure that the public is kept safe are proper
people to comment on a supervised injection site?
Mr. Matthew Skof: Absolutely, sir.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Would you agree that elected officials, such as
city councillors or members of a provincial parliament or their
government representatives, would be qualified people to consult
with as to whether or not there should be a safe injection site in their
neighbourhood?
Mr. Matthew Skof: Absolutely.
Mr. Rick Norlock: One other thing: when we were dealing with
people who are required to have criminal record checks, since minor
hockey assistant coaches and anyone involved in any kind of
volunteer capacity in a community, especially in cities like Ottawa
and Toronto, would come not only from parts of Canada, but other
parts of the world, to your knowledge are most of these associations
or most of these volunteers required to have criminal record checks?
Mr. Matthew Skof: They are, absolutely yes.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Do you think that's a good idea?
Mr. Matthew Skof: Since they are dealing with a potentially
vulnerable sector of our community, then yes, I agree, they should
have.
Mr. Rick Norlock: You'd also agree that drug addicts and people
like that who would be in the vicinity of a supervised drug injection
site would be vulnerable people?
Mr. Matthew Skof: I have expressed that before, and I absolutely
do agree with that.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Thank you very much.
You related your length of service in Ottawa and the people who
you supervise. Do you believe that every person who you
supervise...?
I guess I should start from the beginning. As a representative of
the Ottawa Police Association, would you have consulted with
members of your organization, both civilian and uniformed, as to
their opinions regarding supervised drug injection sites?
Mr. Matthew Skof: Yes, absolutely.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Would I be correct in saying there were
probably some differences of opinion?
Mr. Matthew Skof: Yes, for sure—even from the members I
supervised in the market as well.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Would I be correct in saying you would not be
taking the stand you took here today if the majority did not share the
opinion that you have shared with us here today?
Mr. Matthew Skof: That's correct.
● (1615)
Mr. Rick Norlock: So you represent a democratic organization,
just as the members of this committee share a democratic institution
called the Parliament of Canada.
Mr. Matthew Skof: I'm elected for a three-year term.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Thank you, sir.
7
Mr. McCormack, when you heard the evidence provided by your
counterpart from the Ottawa police, do you as a police force
regularly consult with civilians in and around the city and the
neighbourhoods that you police, from the standpoint of the police
organization itself—in other words, community consultations?
Mr. Michael McCormack: Yes, and in fact in every division we
have in Toronto we have what we call our community police liaison
committee formed of stakeholders within every community
throughout the city of Toronto who we deal with on a regular basis.
I was very much a big part of that in Regent Park. As I said, in
Regent Park 90% of our crime, 90% of the stuff we dealt with, was
either drug or alcohol related.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Given that there's no specific area that a
supervised drug injection site is supposed to occur in, and that this
legislation basically says the community must be consulted, in your
stakeholder groups throughout the city, would I be correct in saying
that those stakeholders represent a cross-section of the citizens of
Toronto from, shall we say, less-educated to the very well-educated,
from people who go to work with a lunch pail to people who go to
work in the financial district?
Mr. Michael McCormack: Definitely. It would represent a crosssection of all society.
Mr. Rick Norlock: And some of them may even be medical
professionals.
Mr. Michael McCormack: Exactly. Yes, they would be.
Mr. Rick Norlock: Are you aware of any consultations with those
stakeholder groups surrounding the supervised drug injection site
issues?
Mr. Michael McCormack: I participated in the discussion at St.
Michael's Hospital from a broader level, more of a 10,000-foot level,
talking about the supervised or safe injection experience in
Vancouver and speaking to communities from across the city about
our concerns from a policing perspective, but right now, at this point,
I couldn't say for sure who has been consulted or who hasn't been
consulted. I have to share Matt's concerns that it has an impact on
everybody in the community.
Working in these communities, where there's high recidivism of
drug use and drug abuse—it creates a big problem for the
community. Although the doctors' comments are from the health
perspective, when they are saying they know that the anecdotal
evidence is there to support the health issues, when we are looking at
the research documents that indicate 90% of the clients who visit an
InSite are also injecting elsewhere, I'm trying to understand the
benefit analysis of what we're trying to achieve here.
Not only that, but there was a 2010 detoxification success rate of
InSite of around 1.6%, so there has to be a benefit to this overall. I'm
just trying to wrap my head around where that is, from what the
other witness was referring to.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. McCormack.
Now we will go to Ms. Davies for seven minutes, please.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Thank you very
much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.
8
SECU-35
I just want to begin by saying that when the process for InSite in
Vancouver began 11 years ago, there was a great fear from many of
us—it was a controversial discussion, and a lot of consultation took
place—that InSite would become this lightning rod, that it would be
held up as a panacea for solving everything, and that everything
would revolve around that. Of course, that's not the case. A safe
injection site is really part of a solution. It's really part of an overall
health strategy for dealing with injection drug users and drug
overdoses and health and treatment and so on.
It's very interesting, because I saw the debate that happened in
Vancouver and that eventually settled down. Now the facility is very
well accepted. I see the same debate taking place here today. It is the
fear that somehow InSite is responsible for every problem that we
have with drug use. I think we should remember that the purpose of a
supervised injection facility is primarily to prevent people from
dying from drug overdoses and to help people connect to treatment
options. There is a very well-used saying in the downtown eastside
that a dead drug user can't get treatment. It's certainly a place to
begin.
So it's very disappointing to me today to hear a representative
from a police association pose the question “Which neighbourhood
will be sacrificed?” It's very, very disappointing for me to hear that,
because it makes me realize really just how much fear there is and
how little understanding there is about what a supervised injection
site means and what it actually does.
To just give one quick example, earlier in the summer this year
there was a spate of bad drugs on the street in Vancouver. There were
public warnings issued by the police department. There was a
number of overdoses. In fact the police department issued statements
and e-mails urging drug users to be extremely cautious and told them
to go to InSite. It was a public health advisory from the police
department who were seeing what was taking place on the street.
To Dr. McKeown from the Toronto Board of Health, thank you
very much for the excellent brief that you sent in. One of the
concerns that I saw in your written submission, and I think was
echoed in a brief from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and
the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, is that in effect Bill C-2, and I
would like to focus on the bill, doesn't ever indicate what level of
information, research, opposition or support would actually result in
an application being accepted or denied. So in effect there is never a
threshold that is given.
I would like to ask you whether or not there is any other service
you provide where you might have to meet criteria where that would
be the case, that you are actually going into a unknown situation
where you have no idea what it is you actually have to meet. It seems
to me with this bill that the criteria are so open-ended, with no
threshold established, how would you ever know that you'd collected
enough information or enough opinions?
● (1620)
Dr. David McKeown: It's also my reading of the bill that there is
that uncertainty. As I said in my remarks, I think legislation should
provide a clear process and certainty when it comes to legal
approvals of processes.
Furthermore, this really stands out. I can't think of another health
service that requires a vote from so many different interests. If you
October 29, 2014
think about it from a patient point of view, you're going to see your
doctor and why should the doctor's neighbours and the local officials
have a say in what services you can get from your doctor?
Ms. Libby Davies: Yes, I do think that's a very pertinent point. In
fact, this is a question that we put to the department officials just a
couple of days ago. We asked what other health service in Canada
has to meet this kind of criterion—or any criteria, for that matter.
What was interesting was that their response was, well, they didn't
really know, because of course health services are approved by
provinces and not the federal government—which begs the question
of why the minister, in the first place, is so inserting himself or
herself into this debate, because the Supreme Court of Canada laid
out the five broad areas, but this has now gone far beyond that.
I'm just curious to know, is there any other situation that you are
aware of where you actually have to in effect get permission from a
police department to provide a health service?
Dr. David McKeown: I cannot think of any, although, as I've
said, I think there is a process that is appropriate to go through, not
the process that's laid out in the legislation but just as a matter of a
good neighbour approach, that the representatives of the local
community and businesses and local police are important stakeholders.
In fact, in places where supervised injection services have been
successfully implemented—of course, we're familiar with InSite, the
one example in Canada, but there are many places around the world
where they have been successfully implemented—there has been a
good partnership with the police so that what the police do to
maintain public order fits well with the health objectives of the
service.
Ms. Libby Davies: I would agree that having their involvement
and consulting with local jurisdictions, with police, is a good thing to
do, but to actually make it a legal requirement of the bill makes it
very difficult.
In terms of Toronto's situation, I know there has been work under
way to look at a supervised consumption site. Can you tell us what
work has been done and how you envisage that service being part of
a health strategy in Toronto? How far ahead are you in that work,
and where are you now given that you're facing this bill?
● (1625)
The Chair: Very briefly, please.
Dr. David McKeown: I think the most important piece of work
done was the TOSCA study, which looked at health needs in Toronto
for injection drug users and what the health benefits would be of the
implementation of that service. It did demonstrate that with a model
of supervised injection embedded with other primary health services
that serve drug users, three sites, for example, would provide a
significant benefit in the areas in which the sites were located. That
was a feasibility study, if you like, that incorporated a large amount
of information about drug use in the community, the impact of
supervised injection, infectious disease rates, and overdose. It took
us much closer to a model that I think is suitable for our patterns of
drug use.
October 29, 2014
SECU-35
There really is no area in Toronto that is like the downtown
eastside in Vancouver, and the InSite model is not appropriate, in my
view, for the patterns of drug use in Toronto. However, embedding
supervised injection as a service with other primary health services,
in community health centres, in existing harm reduction services, I
think is very appropriate. That's the direction in which the board of
health has pointed us.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. McKeown.
We will now go to Mr. Carmichael, please.
Mr. John Carmichael (Don Valley West, CPC): Thank you, Mr.
Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for joining us today.
As I've listened to your opening comments and some of the early
questions, I must admit I am alarmed. I'm not overly surprised, but as
my colleague opposite mentioned, there appears to be an introduction of fear into this. However, fear was part of the initial debate in
the original InSite development, and that debate has settled down.
As I listened to both Mr. Skof and Mr. McCormack, I'm not sure
what has settled down. It sounds like the reality, from your
perspectives....
In my limited time, I'm going to address my questions to both Mr.
Skof and Mr. McCormack.
It sounds to me that the issue is as significant as it was at the
beginning of the InSite debate and discussion, with users injecting,
as Mr. McCormack said, four to six times per day. Where do they get
their drugs? How do they pay for them? They turn to crime.
That is a difficult part of this equation in terms of balancing where
we as a committee are going to take this bill. During our first
meeting on this bill, we heard testimony regarding how the
government's national anti-drug strategy aims to prevent drug abuse
through its prevention action plan.
Mr. Skof, could you comment on the importance of continuing
this strategy and any work your police force may do collaboratively
in this regard? Then I'll ask Mr. McCormack the same question.
Mr. Matthew Skof: Thank you.
I think it's important for everyone to know that I have never
advocated based on just a position of abstinence. I've always sat as a
representative of the police, as well the association, on every harm
reduction committee available in Ottawa, including COMPAC, as
Mike was mentioning, a community-based police advisory group.
Our strategies aren't just enforcement. The police have to engage in
multiple aspects of it, and it can't be in isolation. We obviously
consult with the community just as much as we're advocating here
for the health community to make sure that we're consulted as well
when it comes to this bill.
With regard to having a strategy, it can't just be one focus. You
have to have multiple strategies, and they work in conjunction with
law enforcement, which is our primary function. We can't just do law
enforcement without consultation with the community, and to
resource and access all the other programs available as well. That's
how you have the highest success rate.
9
Mr. John Carmichael: Thank you.
Mr. McCormack.
Mr. Michael McCormack: First of all, again, where we want to
see the emphasis....
I want to clarify a couple of things. This not fearmongering. This
is not fear. We're coming to it from a very practical and business case
oriented discussion around this bill, around InSite. The doctor
brought up a great point. I started off my discussion by saying that
we're very concerned about the way InSite's been run in its current
configuration. That is the Vancouver model. It's completely different,
and it's not a cookie-cutter model that can be applied everywhere.
That was the first statement.
The next thing is that we try to get treatment. We try to get people
off drugs. We do it through drug treatment court. We try to
streamline our people into the health system. We want to get people
off and away from drugs.
What we're trying to do is emphasize the point that, when we're
looking at these types of issues like supervised injection sites, there
are a lot of balls in the air sort of thing with different resources. And
when we're talking from a policing perspective, we're giving you a
boots-on-the-ground perspective on the types of issues we need to
deal with. We need to deal with the resources that are going to be
required. We need to look at that. We are not looking at a treatment
place where people go and they get the...as I said, I compared it to a
methadone clinic. This is quite different.
We have to look at it with a really broad brush and a different lens
to ensure that all the resources and all the stakeholders.... It is
important that the police have a role in this, because we're the ones
who inevitably have to deal with it in a positive or negative way.
● (1630)
Mr. John Carmichael: Thank you for that, Mr. McCormack.
I think Mr. McKeown did stress quite clearly that one model
doesn't fit all, and I think that point is well taken this afternoon. I
appreciate that comment.
I wonder, Mr. McCormack, what your sense is from colleagues
across the country as to their thoughts on injection or consumption
sites. Are they concerned, and have you heard any ramifications to
policing and police resources from colleagues across the country as
to the demands on their available resources?
Mr. Michael McCormack: Yes. I spoke to the people in
Vancouver. That's where we were looking. InSite is the program
everyone is looking at as the benchmark.
When we look at what happened in Vancouver, for instance in
eastside, they had to put an additional 81 police officers into that
community, into that area. There is a demand on police officers.
There is a demand that they are there. Not only that, in talking to our
Canadian Police Association president, Tom Stamatakis, who
represents the Vancouver officers, there is the issue of police
officers going in after midnight or the early hours of the morning and
picking up syringes and stuff. It wasn't that the people were going to
InSite and using inside the actual facility. A lot of the people go
outside. They still inject on the street.
10
SECU-35
I have to agree with whoever brought up the comment—I agree
with it on a different level—that InSite is not the cure-all, and it's not
the major fix. That's a big concern for policing.
So it is a demand on police resources, and as I said, we're going to
have to look at it. When we're talking about the federal strategy on
policing and the demand on police resources and police budgets, this
is something we really need to be involved with and we need to look
at it from a business case scenario.
Mr. John Carmichael: Thank you, Mr. McCormack.
I have one minute left, so I'll address this to Mr. Skof.
In your mind, is there any other involvement police should have
with the consultative process as we go down this path?
Mr. Matthew Skof: From what I've seen from the tabled
legislation, I think associations and police departments are both
going to be provided an opportunity. As I've expressed, I just want to
make sure that when people are looking at it from a police
perspective the whole spectrum of policing is considered.
As long as the associations, which I believe are already inclusive
in the legislation...I think it's acceptable, what we have.
Mr. John Carmichael: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Carmichael.
On behalf of the committee, I'd certainly like to thank Mr. Skof,
Mr. McCormack, and Dr. McKeown. Thank you so much for
testifying and answering our queries today with regard to Bill C-2
and its implications.
Thank you once again. We will now suspend for a change of
witnesses.
● (1630)
(Pause)
● (1635)
The Chair: We are back in session. We have three more witnesses
with us here today.
From the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, we have Chief
Bryan Larkin, chief of police from the Waterloo Regional Police
Service and of course a member of the drug advisory committee.
Welcome, sir.
From Safer Ottawa, we have Chris Grinham, representative.
Thank you, Chris.
From REAL Women of Canada, we have Gwendolyn Landolt,
national vice-president. Thank you very much.
We will take your opening statements. As we are a little pressed
for time, if you can shorten them a little bit the chair would certainly
appreciate that, as would our witnesses and our questioners so that
we can hopefully get as many rounds in as possible.
We will start off with you, Chief Larkin, for your opening
statement, sir.
Chief Bryan Larkin (Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police
Service, Member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
October 29, 2014
[Translation]
Good afternoon, everyone. I appreciate this opportunity to appear
before you today.
[English]
It's a pleasure to be here.
By way of introduction, my name is Bryan Larkin. I'm the serving
chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service. I've been a police
officer for 24 years. I sit as a member of the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police drug abuse committee. As well, as a community
builder, I've had the opportunity to serve as the chair of the board of
directors of the Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, which is a
residential drug treatment centre that provides a full spectrum of
addiction services, including supported housing, for Waterloo and
Wellington counties. This opportunity, coupled with my policing
experience, has provided me tremendous insight into the social
challenges and the impact of substance abuse in our communities.
CACP president Clive Weighill of the Saskatoon Police Service
and I would like to express our sincere appreciation to this
committee for allowing us the opportunity to contribute to this
important community safety and well-being discussion, which
ensures local community input into decision-making on potential
safe injection sites within our communities. On behalf of Chief
Weighill, I'd just like to make a quick statement.
As law enforcement leaders, we always focus on ensuring the
safety of our communities. Our officers are the most vulnerable
among us. We are dedicated to the protection and security of the
people of Canada. Likewise, our colleagues in the Canadian Armed
Forces proudly serve Canadians by defending our values, interests,
and sovereignty, both at home and abroad, and we'd like to join in
mourning their loss.
We've all been shaken by the recent tragedies in Saint-Jean-surRichelieu and here in Ottawa. It was truly an unprecedented week for
all first responders, but, as is typical with Canadians, such tragedies
bring out the best in our people, our leadership, and our collective
resiliency. Parliamentarians and staffers from all political parties are
to be commended. Through a moment of terror to uniting in resolve,
you each provided incredible leadership and have demonstrated that
we will not be deterred, nor will we continue to stand still. We will
move on as Canadians do.
We'd also like to recognize the House and Senate security staff,
including one of our own CACP members, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin
Vickers. We'd like to make that statement before getting into this
important discussion.
As many of you are aware, the CACP, through its 20 committees
related to public safety and justice, contributes extensively to the
House and Senate committees. For your own background, the CACP
represents in excess of 90% of the policing community in Canada,
which includes federal, first nations, provincial, regional, and
municipal police leaders and services. Our mandate is clear: it is
the safety and security of all Canadians through innovative police
leadership.
October 29, 2014
SECU-35
In 2007 the CACP adopted a drug policy that was developed
through our drug abuse committee. This policy sets out the position
of our CACP members on this very important national issue that has
a direct impact on Canadians and our communities on a day-to-day
basis.
I'll give you a brief overview of the CACP drug policy. Our
strategy is balanced. We believe in a balanced approach to the issue
of substance abuse and abuse within Canada. It consists of
prevention, education, enforcement, counselling, treatment, rehabilitation, and, where appropriate, alternative measures as well as
judicial diversion of offenders in order to ensure appropriate support
as well as to counter Canada's drug problems.
Our mission is very clear. Our goal is to transition to a healthy
lifestyle in order to provide a second chance at life. We believe in a
balanced continuum of practice distributed across each component.
In addition, the policy components must be fundamentally lawful
and ethical, must consider the interests of all, and must strive to
achieve a balance between societal and individual interests. We
believe that, to the greatest extent possible, initiatives must be and
should be evidence-based.
The CACP supports the principles being established as a part of
this bill, in particular the need to balance public safety with public
health. In fact, that is the future of community well-being. The future
of community safety is more collaboration and enhanced integration.
The CACP is not making a specific statement with regard to
supervised consumption sites. Our position is that the decision to
support or not support supervised consumption sites is a local
community issue. It must be localized.
11
We want to reiterate that every community is unique, and that is
reflected, we believe, in the spirit of the bill.
Thank you very much. Merci .
The Chair: Thank you very much, Chief Larkin.
We'll now go to Mr. Grinham, please.
Mr. Chris Grinham (Representative, Safer Ottawa): Thank
you very much.
I would also like to thank you for inviting me and granting me the
opportunity to speak today. As mentioned, my name is Chris
Grinham and I am co-founder of a non-profit group named Safer
Ottawa. My wife and I founded Safer Ottawa in 2007 to address the
issues of discarded needles in our area.
From 2007 to 2010, we spent spring, summer, and fall cleaning up
needles, crack pipes, and other discarded harm-reduction equipment
from the streets, parks, churches, daycares, businesses, and
residential properties in Lowertown, Sandy Hill, and the ByWard
Market. By the end of 2010 we had collected over 6,000 needles and
27 gallons of harm-reduction equipment off our streets.
It was at this point that we realized that we needed to do more. To
improve the situation and make our streets safer, we focused on three
areas: involvement, education, and awareness.
We are pleased to see a clear process that will provide criteria for
community consultation prior to a decision being made by the
Minister of Health. As all of you know, there are 90 safe
consumption sites across the world, two of them in Canada, and
we would concur that there's no one unique or cookie-cutter
approach. The needs, the demands, and the impacts vary from
community to community.
For involvement, we worked with the City of Ottawa, Ottawa
Police, the Ottawa Needle Hunters to create and implement a rapid
needle-response program for cleaning up discards when found, as
well as to redesign and improve the strategies used for proactive
needle hunting.
Bill C-2 establishes 27 criteria that an applicant must meet before
a supervised consumption site is granted by the Minister of Health.
One of these criteria requires that the applicant make contact with
and obtain the input of local police services, as noted in proposed
paragraph 56.1(3)(e):
For education, we worked with Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa
shelters, and various outreach programs and agencies to ensure that
clients were properly educated on safe disposal locations and
techniques, and informed on the risks and hazards of discarding their
equipment where others may come into contact with it.
a letter from the head of the police force that is responsible for providing policing
services to the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines his or
her opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with
respect to public safety and security.
● (1640)
I want to thank and acknowledge and applaud the inclusion of
such.
Again, the CACP maintains a neutral position on the actual merits
of safe consumption sites. Our focus is on public safety and security.
This is why we believe that while law enforcement is an integral part
of the decision-making process, we are simply one stakeholder. We
are one partner. It is the greater community response that is required.
It is the collaboration that is the spirit that builds healthy and strong
communities in Canada.
For awareness, we worked with the residents, community
associations, and Neighbourhood Watch programs to ensure that
residents were aware of the dangers, aware of what to watch out for,
and aware of what they should do should they find discarded needles
or other equipment.
In short, in order to improve the situation of discarded needles in
Ottawa, we had to involve, consult, educate, and work with the
community, health organizations, municipal government, Ottawa
police, and other partner agencies. This strategy has been very
successful. The issue of discards in Ottawa is significantly better
than when we began. This very effective form of collaboration and
inclusion is the goal of Bill C-2.
12
SECU-35
It is no secret that our organization has been vocal in opposition to
the implementation of supervised consumption or injection sites in
Ottawa. This is not from any moralistic “drugs are bad” or “drugs are
illegal” standpoint but, rather, our stance is the culmination of years
of researching the subject, meeting with the experts, and sitting
down with agencies that advocate on all sides of the issue. Why then
do we support Bill C-2, which is, in essence, a bill that puts into
place a framework to implement a site we oppose? It is because
implementing such a site is ultimately not our decision, and because
in our experience we have encountered several individuals in
professional capacities that were providing information that was
inaccurate and incorrect, something we believe to be extremely
dangerous, especially when dealing with subjects as important as
addiction and disease.
Our first encounter was back in 2009, when our then medical
officer of health, Dr. David Salisbury, insisted that the needles we
were collecting off the streets of Ottawa were not coming from the
needle exchange program but rather from other sources. He
suggested a syringe black market, Hull needle distribution sites,
and the largest offender was, according to him, Ottawa pharmacies.
He said legitimate purchases from pharmacies and other sources
present a significant portion of needles on the street, something the
pharmacists of Ottawa took great exception to. This, of course, was
not correct.
More recently we've had to contend with comments from Dr.
Mark Tyndall, head of infectious diseases at the Ottawa Hospital and
vocal advocate for a supervised injection site in Ottawa. Earlier this
year in an Ottawa Sun article, Dr. Tyndall made several comments in
support of supervised injection sites that were incorrect and
misleading, not the least of which was that HIV rates in Ottawa
are probably the highest of any major city in Canada. The truth is
that not only is the HIV rate in Ottawa not among the highest, it is in
fact among the lowest. He then went on to say that injection sites
prevent overdoses. However, this again is simply untrue. In fact,
InSite's own data not only shows that overdoses happen regularly at
their facility, but that they have increased two and half times since
2007 and 2008.
In 2007 and 2008 there were 197 overdoses at InSite, and in 2012
up to 497. We were told in an e-mail from Vancouver Coastal Health
that during the 2013 calendar year, there were 616 overdoses at
InSite. In fact, just this month there was a two-day period where 31
overdoses occurred. InSite has claimed that no overdose deaths have
occurred on the premises. While that may be true, what they cannot
tell you is whether or not a death has occurred from an overdose at
InSite once a client has left on their own or in an ambulance. We
have made several freedom of information requests to Vancouver
Coastal Health and the B.C. ambulance services, and the answer is
simply that this information is not tracked. So it is impossible to state
definitively that no deaths have been caused by injection drug use at
InSite.
● (1645)
You may have heard that in Ottawa there are 40 overdose deaths
per year. This is true, but it is always quoted, or almost always
quoted, out of context. Usually advocates will quote this number
when discussing how injection sites prevent overdose deaths,
suggesting that through association these 40 deaths could have been
October 29, 2014
prevented with a supervised injection site in place. What they neglect
to mention, or perhaps are simply not aware of, is that, of these 40
overdose deaths each year, three or four are attributed to injection
drug use.
For these statistics and more we have supplied an Ottawa
snapshot. Unfortunately, we were not aware it needed to be bilingual,
so it will be translated and supplied to you later.
It is our belief that by ensuring proper and effective consultation,
Bill C-2 will address the problem of incorrect, inaccurate information, which we believe to be imperative. The issues of addiction,
with aspects ranging from homelessness to mental health, from
crime to harm reduction, and disease transmission are extremely
complex and, in many cases, so interwoven that in order to address
one you must address several others in tandem. These issues simply
cannot be looked at from one side. They cannot be dealt with from a
purely medical response or a purely criminal response.
As we did with Safer Ottawa, in order to begin tackling these
issues, you must first bring everyone together from all sides. Let all
opinions be voiced and heard. Doing so helps to ensure that
whatever strategy is developed, it will be the one that has taken the
most into account with the most accurate information, thus being the
best solution that has the most positive effect.
This is why we support Bill C-2 as it is designed.
Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Grinham.
We will now go to Ms. Landolt, please.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt (National Vice-President, REAL
Women of Canada): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I very
much appreciate being invited to come here to speak.
REAL Women of Canada was an intervenor in the Supreme Court
of Canada case on the drug injection site in Vancouver. Our
organization was the only one of 15 intervenors that did not have a
financial, personal, or professional interest in the outcome of that
case. Our concern was entirely based on the addicted individual and
the implications for his or her family and society.
lt is essential that any discussion on Bill C-2 and drug injection
sites to which Bill C-2 relates is based on factual evidence. Evidence
indicates that InSite, which is the only drug injection site in North
America, has given rise to very serious problems, which Bill C-2 is
trying to address.
During the debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-2,
reference has repeatedly been made in the debate that over 30 peerreviewed studies indicated that InSite was purported to have
curtailed crime and disease, and led to a 35% reduction in deaths
caused by drug overdose.
October 29, 2014
SECU-35
The crucial point that was not disclosed during the debate in the
House of Commons was that these 30 studies on lnSite were all
carried out by the same individuals from the British Columbia
Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, located at UBC, who were one
and the same activists who had lobbied for the establishment of the
drug injection site in the first place. As a result, they had a personal
interest, as well as a conflict of interest, in ensuring that InSite be
deemed successful. That is, their research was carried out for the
purpose only of supporting the political objective of continuing the
operation of InSite.
According to information obtained under the Access to Information Act, between 2003 and 2011 these same researchers from the B.
C. centre at UBC, who had previously lobbied for the injection site,
have received over $18 million from the Canadian lnstitutes of
Health Research to carry out their research on lnSite. All their studies
were peer-reviewed only by supporters of the drug injection facility.
Also, these researchers, contrary to standard scientific procedures,
have refused to share their data with other researchers so that their
studies can be replicated. Without exception, these advocates and
researchers concluded that the injection site was reducing harm and
death rates for addicts.
One such study on lnSite was published in a British medical
journal in April of 2011. The study erroneously claimed that there
was a 35% reduction in overdoses in the 500 metres surrounding
lnSite, while in the rest of Vancouver, the rate decreased by only 9%.
However, an international team consisting of three Australian
medical doctors, a Canadian academic, and an American psychiatrist
found serious and grave errors in the study, which entirely
invalidated its findings. Also, a B.C. coroner's report has shown
that overdoses actually increased in the area by 14%, or 11% if
population were adjusted, between 2002, before the site opened, and
2005, when the study was carried out. Other evidence further
contradicts the claims of these advocates and researchers from the
centre at UBC that this InSite has been successful and that Bill C-2 is
redundant.
One study that is never, ever reported is in fact the government's
own expert advisory committee on drug injection sites. The federal
government established an expert review committee to determine
whether the claims of those supporting InSite were legitimate. The
findings of the expert committee were released on March 31, 2008.
The expert committee found as follows. Only 5% of the drug addicts
in the area used the drug injection site, and of these, only 10% used
the facility exclusively for their injections.
In other words, 90% of the drug addicts continued to inject their
drugs on back streets, alleyways, etc., leaving their contaminated
needles behind.
● (1650)
Two, there is no proof that the site has decreased the instance of
AIDS and hepatitis in drug addicts.
Three, there is no indication that the crime rate has decreased.
Four, only 3% of InSite clients are referred to treatment.
According to Inspector John McKay, responsible for policing the
drug injection site, 65 police officers from the Vancouver Police
Department are required to patrol the five-block area surrounding
13
InSite in order to control the crime. The police officers are prohibited
from charging addicts with possession, and instead are obliged to
escort them to the injection site.
The drug addict or casual observer obtains illicit drugs of
questionable purity from a drug trafficker in the area, which he or
she then brings into the site for drug injection purposes. The drug
injection site, in fact, becomes a honeypot, a meeting point for drug
traffickers.
According to the government's expert committee, it is estimated
that each addict causes $350,000 worth of crime each year in order
to purchase drugs from a trafficker to feed his or her addiction. It is
not surprising, therefore, that in 2006 Vancouver had the secondhighest rate of violent and property crime of any major city in the
United States or Canada.
These are some of the reasons why more than two dozen major
European cities have signed the 1994 European Cities Against Drugs
declaration, opposing drug injection sites and free distribution of
drugs. Officials from Berlin, Stockholm, London, Paris, Moscow,
Oslo, etc., have embraced the principle that the answer to a drug
problem does not lie in drug injection sites.
Another problem has arisen with the Vancouver drug injection
site. In November 2013, an audit was undertaken of InSite, which is
operated by the Portland Hotel Society. The audit revealed that the
directors and executives used much of the approximately $21 million
per year that it received from the federal and provincial governments
for their own personal use. The examples include wining, dining,
travelling, staying in luxury hotels, flower arrangements, hair salons,
spas, and limousines, all being placed on the business card of the
association administering InSite. The co-executives and the board
have been dismissed, but it indicates that keeping the drug addicts on
drugs only enhances those who are supposed to be helping them. It
only helps mainly those who are operating InSite.
Well-off individuals such as doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, can
afford to obtain treatment for their addiction. It is the addicts without
money or support who are shuffled off to InSite, where they inject
themselves continuously with street drugs, which only deepens their
addiction. This results, eventually, in the addict having further
degradation and often a terrifying death. The problem of drug abuse
is not solved by enabling drug addicts to use more and more drugs,
or assisting them in using a drug injection site.
The real question we must address is whether addicts should
continue to be marginalized and manipulated—or should they be
helped with treatment, so as to return them to healing, and to a
normal life with their families? It is obvious that a compassionate
society should not kill addicts by furthering their addiction, but
rather should reach out to them by way of treatment.
14
SECU-35
Bill C-2, which seeks to provide a moderating influence on the
problems that have arisen with the InSite drug injection site in
Vancouver, has shown how necessary it is to curb the abuses that
have taken place. Moreover, there are better and more competent
ways of dealing with drug addiction than the proliferation of drug
injection sites.
The criminal justice system today serves as a major engine that
gets addicts into treatment and recovery. The drug courts make
recovery possible for thousands of offenders each year. In fact,
according to experts in the field in the United States, 50% of people
in treatment are there because of referral by the criminal justice
system.
● (1655)
International research indicates that treatment of drug addiction
actually increases when drug enforcement occurs. That is, positive
results flow from drug enforcement in that one of the aftermaths of
police operations is that there is a marked increase in the proportion
of drug users seeking treatment. This is because drug courts allow
the conviction to be suspended if the offender agrees to take
treatment and be monitored through regular urinalysis and counselling. Those who complete the drug-free program receive a suspended
sentence or conditional discharge. Those who fail are required to
return to the regular court system for sentencing. When offered a
choice between drug conviction or treatment, the addict invariably
chooses treatment.
● (1700)
The Chair: Mrs. Landolt, could you wrap up, please?
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: Yes, thanks very much. I just wanted
to add—
The Chair: Go ahead.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: —that Bill C-2 is essential to try to
moderate the terrible tragedies that are taking place in Canada with
regard to the drug injection site in Vancouver.
We have done a brief where all this and the police statement are
referenced for you to read, and all the studies backing up what I said
are in our brief, if you care to read it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mrs. Landolt.
We will now go to the rounds of questioning. We will start off
with seven minutes.
Ms. James, please.
Ms. Roxanne James (Scarborough Centre, CPC): Thank you,
Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing.
When the Minister of Health appeared before committee in our
last meeting, she stated that this bill would give greater clarity and
transparency for her, the Minister of Health, via consultations with a
wide range of stakeholders. One of those stakeholders pertains to a
very direct and specific clause in this bill, and it has to do with
seeking input from the chief of police in the city or municipality
where the applicant seeks to establish an injection site.
October 29, 2014
I'll direct my first question to you, Chief Larkin. Would you be in
favour of that specific clause with that particular stakeholder?
Chief Bryan Larkin: Yes, absolutely. The CACP and in fact all
chiefs across Canada applaud that inclusion, because it really
integrates the whole process to safe communities and the well-being
of communities. It takes the issue of social determinants of health,
which policing is looking at significantly as it relates to crime, and
actually turns it into a community discussion. Hence, we feel that's
absolutely necessary and we applaud that inclusion. It's a step in the
right direction.
Ms. Roxanne James: Are you concerned at all about a potential
increase in crime related to an injection site in a particular area? The
reason I ask that question is that in the first hour we had two
witnesses, and one of them asked which neighbourhood would be
sacrificed. He went on to talk about the fact that illicit and illegal
drugs will be transported in and around that area. In fact, he talked
about a perimeter, or even a border, that goes around an injection site
that will allow someone to freely walk in that area without any
ramifications from law enforcement. So there were some concerns
there. He also talked about increase in other crimes.
The other witness we had in the previous hour said very
specifically that in many cases drug addicts support their addiction
by committing crimes. He went on to talk about an increase in
property thefts, and so on, in particular areas. Of course, as someone
in law enforcement, you know that drug dealers will go where
markets are.
So having said that, and kind of reiterated what the first witnesses
said, are you in agreement with those types of issues pertaining to an
injection site?
Chief Bryan Larkin: Yes, to a certain extent. I think you have to
take it in context. I think there are some myths, and I think there are
misconceptions. That is the importance of the localized discussion;
the important piece of this is when you drill this down. In Canada,
we're looking at two public policy experiments and they're both in
Vancouver, which from a chief's perspective is unique. There are
many communities that have drug issues. In fact the tentacles of drug
and substance abuse reach across Canada—east to west to north to
south.
That being said, what we experience on the west coast in
Vancouver is something that no other communities in our country are
experiencing. I think you have to look at it and localize it. You have
to look at what the current crime rate is in the area. For example, if
we met the 27 criterion and we were going to open up a safe
consumption site and create this process, what is the current crime
rate? You have to look at the benchmark. What is the potential to
create those types of pieces?
There's lots of discussion about what our friends in Vancouver
have been doing, but I can tell you that we have a member from the
organized crime section who sits on the drug abuse committee. It's a
misconception that Vancouver police officers do not enforce the law
within the 500-metre radius, which is often recognized. I think one
of the pieces around that, though, is that the Vancouver Police
Department will tell you that within the 500-metre radius, since 2003
drug overdose and calls for service related to drug overdoses have
been reduced by 35%.
October 29, 2014
SECU-35
That being said, calls for service and demand on police is up.
Some of that is around deployment strategies and the Vancouver
Police Department deploying more resources there, which will
naturally generate more calls for service; it's wherever we direct
police officers. The Canadian chiefs have a simple message here: we
can't arrest our way out of substance abuse issues. We cannot arrest
our way out of a public health issue. In fact, it is silly and not a
financially innovative concept anymore. We need an integrated
approach. We're significant supporters of the national anti-drug
strategy, and hence our message is that it has to be a balanced
approach. This bill clearly starts that discussion.
● (1705)
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you.
Are you in support of this legislation? I'm not sure if I heard you
say yes or no.
Chief Bryan Larkin: Yes. The CACP is in support of the
legislation.
Ms. Roxanne James: Okay.
We heard from a witness in the first hour—I put it on my
BlackBerry because I wanted to make sure I said it correctly—that
he was concerned that the measures in this bill were excessive
compared with any other public health services that are offered.
Having heard from the first two witnesses, and the concerns with
crime and other issues that might be in the area, can you think
offhand of any other public health service that might...? I'm trying to
word this the correct way, because we're not here to talk about the
merits of InSite or injection sites. That's not the purpose of the bill.
It's about community consultation and making sure that local law
enforcement has a say.
15
Do you have any concerns with this bill with regard to—
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: Sorry, I didn't hear the question.
Ms. Roxanne James: Do you have any concerns with regard to
this legislation with the charter, based on your legal background?
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: The Supreme Court of Canada said
there has to be a balance between public safety and public health. It
seems to me that Bill C-2 is desperately trying to create that balance.
The court ordered a proliferation of drug injection sites to go
forward, providing there was that balance. I find that Bill C-2, within
the margins that the court gave the government to bring in
legislation, has attempted to do that very important job of balancing
the two aspects of drug addiction.
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you very much.
I suspect that my time is up.
The Chair: That's it. Thank you very much.
We will now go to Ms. Davies. I do believe you're splitting your
time.
Ms. Libby Davies: I think Marjolaine will go first, and then me.
The Chair: Fine.
Carry on, Ms. Boutin-Sweet.
Can you think of any other publicly administered health service
that may cause the same degree of concern that we heard from the
two representatives in the first hour?
[Translation]
Chief Bryan Larkin: I listened to the witness testimony and
certainly understand some of the concerns, but I can't think of
anything off the top of my head. I think it's a discussion. One of the
lessons we learned, if I can use the harm reduction strategy, was
around methadone clinics. I think police chiefs would argue that
there was not enough consultation with law enforcement around the
placement and the location of methadone clinics, and hence created a
significant impact on policing because it creates community
concerns. There's very little consultation when you look at the
implementation of a methadone clinic.
Over the course of this study, we have received a half dozen
briefs, and I have read them all. To my surprise, the choice of
witnesses is not at all representative of the views expressed in the
briefs. It's quite the opposite.
Ms. Roxanne James: Thank you.
Sorry, I don't mean to cut you off. I have one minute left.
Chief Bryan Larkin: Sure.
Ms. Roxanne James: I just want to say to Mr. Grinham, thank
you very much for the service that you provide. I just wanted to put
that on the record.
I do have a question for Ms. Landolt. I looked at your biography.
It indicates that you were a crown prosecutor, you had a legal career
and a private practice, you specialized in certain issues, and you also
have written extensively on Canadian constitutional issues.
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP): Thank you,
Mr. Chair.
For example, the Canadian Association of Nurses in HIV/AIDS
Care recommends that the bill be withdrawn and a new bill be
drafted. Moreover, the Canadian Bar Association, through the
National Criminal Justice Section, which represents 37,000 lawyers
across Canada, states the following in its brief. I will read you one
paragraph of their brief, since the association has no witnesses here
in committee to speak on its behalf. The following is stated in the
brief:
However, other parts of the Preamble reflect a continued emphasis on prohibiting
illicit drugs. This approach ignores overwhelming historical and current evidence that
prohibition drives the drug supply underground and increases violence and debts
associated with drug activity and overdoses. Not only dangerous, this approach has
proven expensive and ineffective, even after decades and endless public funds to
allow it to succeed.
16
SECU-35
October 29, 2014
The Canadian Bar Association and many other stakeholders are
rather advocating in favour of harm reduction when it comes to illicit
drugs and addiction. I think that the establishment of supervised
injection sites leads to harm reduction. We should rather participate
in the establishment of those sites, as the association suggests in its
brief.
saying that there is value to trying this and experimenting with it. I
think that's the thrust.
Mr. Grinham, you appear to be saying otherwise. What is your
response to the association's statement?
● (1710)
[English]
Mr. Chris Grinham: It has been our position, as I've said, from
the research that we've looked at—and we've looked specifically at
Ottawa—that the numbers that are often quoted are either quoted out
of context or quoted without the full information. As I've said before,
it's important that the entire story be told and that everybody be
heard from all sides.
[Translation]
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: Did you know that studies
conducted in other countries point to the exact same conclusions as
the Canadian studies?
[English]
Mr. Chris Grinham: Yes, I have heard that there have been
studies in other cities. I've also heard that there have been lots of
studies to the contrary, and studies that show.... We have the Swedish
model that has shown that treatment and enforcement has worked
extremely well. We have San Patrignano in Italy—
[Translation]
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: Sorry to interrupt you.
I want to complete my question. Do you think the terms that set
out the exceptional circumstances included in the bill are in line with
the judge's proposal?
Am I to understand that you have not consulted the studies that lay
out the benefits of supervised injection sites?
[English]
Mr. Chris Grinham: I have read several of the studies. I haven't
read them all, of course.
[Translation]
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Larkin, the Supreme Court declared that, if a supervised
injection site meets the 26 criteria provided for in the current
legislation, fulfills the criteria for decreasing the risk of death and has
no negative impact on public safety, the minister should generally,
and I quote, “grant an exemption”.
Do you agree with that?
[English]
Chief Bryan Larkin: Well, yes, the Canadian chiefs are
supportive of Bill C-2 if it meets the 27—
[Translation]
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: I am not asking you whether you
agree with the bill, but whether you agree with the Supreme Court's
statement.
[English]
Chief Bryan Larkin: Yes, this is part of the process here. If the
Minister of Health...and it meets the localized piece, police chiefs are
[Translation]
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: Okay.
[English]
Chief Bryan Larkin: That's a complex question. From a chief's
perspective, yes and no. I guess there's an easy way out there, with
some neutrality, but there are aspects that, yes, we believe it does
meet, and other aspects that we still have concerns about.
I think our position is very clear. This is a public health issue.
We're really focused on safety and security, but our message is
always about transitioning, not the perpetual use of drugs. There has
to be a transition.
[Translation]
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: Thank you.
I would like to yield the reminder of my time to my colleague.
[English]
Ms. Libby Davies: Thank you.
I have just a minute and half, so very quickly, I think
unfortunately a lot of misinformation has been put forward by a
couple of the witnesses today.
Just to come back to the expert advisory committee from 2006,
they do say clearly that there's no evidence of increases in drugrelated loitering, drug dealing, or petty crime in areas surrounding
InSite. They also said there was no evidence that supervised
injection sites influenced rates of drug use in the community, or
increased relapse rates among injection drug users. They also
pointed out the cost-benefit studies that show that for every dollar
spent, there is a saving between $0.97 and $2.90. That's from a very
conservative review that was done by the minister.
So unfortunately, much of your information is very false, and I
think, really, attacking peer-reviewed studies—
● (1715)
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: I object to that. It was what the report
said. I don't say it's incorrect.
Ms. Libby Davies: I'm not asking you a question.
I would like to ask Chief Larkin—
The Chair: Excuse me, Ms. Davies. You can agree or you can
disagree, but we don't need any accusation and we don't need any
more comment; just please proceed.
October 29, 2014
SECU-35
Ms. Libby Davies: Chief Larkin, this bill sets out very onerous
legal requirements for an application to come in. A question was
posed on whether or not there any other services that would cause
disruption or concerns in the community. I could think, for example,
of homeless shelters that sometimes are very controversial, or mental
health drop-ins. Do you think they should be subject to legal
requirements by the federal government? Obviously there are often
municipal consultations, but would any of those kinds of services, in
your opinion, require a federal legal requirement to be approved,
which is what we are requiring here?
Chief Bryan Larkin: No. Those are localized issues, and in terms
of the responsibility for those, from the chief's perspective, really
they are funded either provincially or municipally, and hence the
regulations and the pieces that work within that should be within that
framework.
This is a significant piece. It's an amendment to a federal piece of
legislation where affordable housing and mental health housing are
not necessarily supported.
Ms. Libby Davies: Yes, but the minister's only—
The Chair: No, excuse me, your time is up. I'm sorry.
We will now go to Ms. Ablonczy, please.
Hon. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC): Well, this
has turned out to be a very exciting session.
I was just blown away, Ms. Landolt, when you said that all of
these studies that are positive about the health benefits of InSite are
done by the same individual. Is that really true? I'm sorry to sound
doubtful, but....
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: Yes, that's exactly what under the
Access to Information Act—
The Chair: One moment, please. There's a point of order.
Mr. Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP): On a
point of order, Mr. Chair, although members enjoy privilege for
things they say here, I think we should give a warning to the witness,
if she is alleging professional misconduct, that she does not enjoy
that privilege in this committee and could be subject to a suit.
The Chair: Fine. I'm sure the....
Your question is in order. Carry on.
Hon. Diane Ablonczy: Okay.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: We applied under the Access to
Information Act, and we found that $18 million was given to the
same three individuals who lobbied for InSite in 2001-02. They were
given this money to carry out studies, and without exception, every
study showed that it was absolutely the most successful endeavour
ever undertaken. They found nothing wrong with it. Other
professionals, psychologists and researchers, have criticized their
studies. The Australian team, and two out of Vancouver—Simon
Fraser—also found these studies were very flawed and unacceptable.
Under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, an
exception can be made for the use of drugs for research or medical
reasons. The loophole to set up InSite was for research purposes, so
for these activists who wanted InSite, it behooved them to be sure
that everything was very successful...so the loophole would show,
17
the research would show, that this was a wonderful idea and a great
concept.
That's where every single one of the studies quoted was by the
same three who had lobbied for InSite from the very beginning.
Hon. Diane Ablonczy: Well, I look forward to looking at your
brief on that, because I didn't know that. I hope no one else did
either, because a lot of people hang a lot of their arguments on these
studies.
Mr. Grinham, it seems to me that the real issue here is one of the
minister needing enough information to make an informed decision
about whether a facility like that should go ahead. In a sense, we're
not arguing in this committee about the benefits versus the notbenefits, although obviously you're going to get into that. But it
seems to me that the real issue is that none of us, and probably not
many of our witnesses, has a reasonable apprehension that such a
facility is going to be next door to the house where we and our
families live. It seems to me that this puts a certain ivory tower
distance between some of us as decision-makers—and, if I can say
so, police officers—and the people who actually would be personally
impacted by such a facility. But a lot of these individuals are not
highly educated or not connected, I guess, to the levers of power,
you might say. I think Ms. Davies represents such an area. That's
why I think the minister feels there needs to be the kind of
consultation that she's putting forward in this bill.
You seem to be the only witness so far that we've heard who has
an on-the-ground insight into the sort of people who are reasonably
likely to be impacted by a facility like this. I'm just curious as to why
you think the minister would need to hear from such individuals, and
how we can make sure that their input is in fact garnered.
● (1720)
Mr. Chris Grinham: Thank you.
I think it's very important to have a broad range of consultation. I
don't think consultation should be limited to people with Ph.D.s. I
think there are people from all walks of life who have valuable input
and valuable information who can help us sculpt and build a proper
response to a drug problem in a neighbourhood.
My wife and I live very close to the area that would be impacted.
In fact, and people may not be aware, Dr. Tyndall has actually
already built a supervised injection site in the city of Ottawa. It is on
Murray Street. It is fully functional. It is not in use officially, but it is
there and it is two blocks from my home.
That being said, this isn't a NIMBY thing where I don't want a
supervised injection site in my backyard. I have all sorts of places
that dispense needles. I have five or six homeless shelters within
walking distance of my house. We live at the epicentre of the
problem here in Ottawa.
The people who live in Lower Town, Sandy Hill, and the ByWard
Market are a little bit more seasoned and understanding as to the
complexity of these problems. I think that those people can bring a
lot of valuable insight not only to the effects that this would have on
the community. A lot of us happen to know and get familiar with the
people who are on the streets and the effects that these issues would
have with them.
18
SECU-35
It is an unfortunate comment that we have heard many times over
the last eight years that the wealthy get treatment and the poor get
harm reduction. We have always seen that to be true. The reality is
that what we're really lacking in this city is treatment, and everybody
you'll speak to from any side of this point in Ottawa....
You can open up a supervised injection site if you wish, but it is
not going to do anything in any way to deal with the root cause of
the problem, which is addiction. The people who live here know
that. It is those people that the minister needs to hear from, not just
people who have a vested interest, not just people who have written
the studies, but everybody from all walks of live who are able to say,
“This is what I know, and this is the one piece of information that I
can provide to you to help you make that decision.”
The Chair: You have 30 seconds left.
Hon. Diane Ablonczy: Thank you.
I guess my question is this: do any of you witnesses feel that there
are just too many hoops, I guess, in this legislation? That's been the
objection we've heard, that there's too much consultation, too much
input, too much research needed.
You all seem to be in favour of this, but does anybody feel that
this is too much?
The Chair: Thank you very much, but we're out of time. We'll
have others questioning now.
We will now go to Ms. Fry.
You have seven minutes.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.): Thank you very
much, Mr. Chair.
My question is a specific one. It's a yes-or-no answer, and it's for
Ms. Landolt.
I would like to ask Ms. Landolt if she is accusing the University of
British Columbia, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and
the researchers of professional misconduct.
Yes or no, please, Ms. Landolt.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: We have raised this issue with the
government—
Hon. Hedy Fry: Yes or no, Ms. Landolt.
The Chair: Excuse me, Mrs. Fry, a response from the witness
cannot be directed. It can be asked for and requested. At that point
the witness has an opportunity to respond as they so choose. You
have every right to ask whatever question you wish. The witness can
respond accordingly.
Hon. Hedy Fry: But I can interrupt the witness if she goes on.
The Chair: Yes, you can.
Hon. Hedy Fry: Thank you.
Ms. Gwendolyn Landolt: We have raised this with the
government, with the Minister of Health, and we have also raised
it with the other government authorities because of the ethical
considerations involved, and also because of the fact that so much
concern is raised by these flawed studies that it has to be
investigated.
October 29, 2014
We are undergoing, and hopefully there will be a response—
● (1725)
Hon. Hedy Fry: Thank you, Ms. Landolt.
Chief Larkin, you mentioned that you support the bill. I don't
think anyone around this table is deciding there is no need for a
legislative framework. It's obviously clear from the Supreme Court
that there is need for a legislative framework. But I want to also
congratulate you for pointing out the need for this to be specific with
regard to the region, the city, the town, etc., which is really
important.
I belong to the group of people who are saying that this bill just
goes a little too far and is a little too intrusive on cities,
municipalities, etc., and what they did.
I would like to tell you I was a minister responsible for the
downtown eastside and the Vancouver agreement when this was
brought in. One of the key issues we looked at when we were
looking at this research project was crime rates, so we had to bring in
the police on it; the need for a supervised injection site based on the
number of addicts and the deaths that had occurred; the regulatory
structures in place to support the facility, which came from the
province, which came from the municipalities, which came from the
Vancouver Police Department; and of course, the other resources
such as money, etc., available. In doing so, we also had two years of
extensive public consultations with the people who live in the area,
with the people who didn't even live in the area, with Vancouverites
in general.
So all of the requirements that the Supreme Court put down,
which are those five broad requirements, were in place when we
brought in the supervised injection site.
At the end of the day, there was clear evidence from the
Vancouver police, who still support it, that crime rates went down,
that public disorder went down, etc. I won't go over that. We agree,
the minister needs to hear from the provincial minister of health,
from the municipalities, etc. But the point is that if you're going to
get all these answers as a yes from the various people who the
Supreme Court said you need to ask and that this bill says you need
to ask, do you not think it's really very intrusive of the Minister of
Health, who's the federal Minister of Health, to then question the
people who are hired? It is obvious that this is part of the provincial
jurisdiction, the police jurisdiction to get criminal checks, etc. That's
kind of intrusive in provincial and municipal jurisdictions.
The big questions should be asked and the answers should be
given, but that really in-depth intrusion is what many of us oppose
and are concerned about.
Chief Bryan Larkin: I'll speak specifically on the policing
perspective around whether or not a chief would feel it would be
intrusive, because that's the area I represent. The reality is that
oversight and accountability are all parts of what we deal with.
In short, no, I don't think there's an element of intrusion. In regard
to that layer of accountability, that layer of responsibility amongst
chiefs of police in reporting federally, because they do have control,
the CDSA, I think there's value to that and it's something that we
would support and partake in.
October 29, 2014
SECU-35
Hon. Hedy Fry: I agree with you. Obviously then the chief of
police in the area would write a letter stating, we have done due
diligence and here is what we think. That is what I'm hoping that this
bill will eventually do, say that the chief of police has said we've
done due diligence. The Minister of Health, the chief public health
officer, the municipality—we have done due diligence in conformity
with the five pieces that the Supreme Court asked for: here is what
we present, including public consultation, and here is what we've
found.
This is as opposed to the very in-depth question of the Minister of
Health must need to know who is being hired, what's being hired.
When InSite was brought in, the regulatory mechanisms came out of
the province, the city, the chief of police. They all saw to it that all of
those were met. So I think my concern is that this is a little too
intrusive.
How much time do I have, Mr. Chair?
The Chair: You have a minute and half.
Hon. Hedy Fry: Thank you.
Mr. Grinham, this is just a short question. You make sense,
obviously, because the consultation was done with many groups
within the downtown eastside when this began. Many groups that
actually opposed InSite now support it wholeheartedly, including
business communities. The Chinatown business community, the
Chinatown residents community, and many of the residents who
lived in the area originally opposed it, but they were willing to see
what the research project showed. They themselves found, as did the
police, that in fact their streets were more livable. There was a
decrease in traffic. People didn't come from elsewhere to shoot up in
the downtown eastside.
I agree with you about public consultation, but I also wanted to
point out that in the one place where it was done, these groups, that
originally opposed it for the first year or two, after the third year
suddenly became in full support of it.
19
I think we are all in agreement with what you're looking for with
regard to public safety, but the balancing is that in fact InSite did
increase the number of beds for treatment by its existence. So your
argument about treatment is well taken, and this was shown to work
in InSite.
● (1730)
Mr. Chris Grinham: Is there a question?
Hon. Hedy Fry: The question is, were you aware of that?
Mr. Chris Grinham: I'm aware of all sorts of different
information that's come out of InSite from treatment, from drug
use, and from overdose and whatnot.
Hon. Hedy Fry: Communities as well.
Mr. Chris Grinham: Community support, community nonsupport; I think you can find people who support InSite. I think you
can find people who don't support InSite. Our concern has always
been to make sure that those people are consulted before a site is
developed, not after.
I know it is sometimes considered easier to ask for forgiveness
than for permission. What we're asking for—
Hon. Hedy Fry: Are you aware that this happened in Vancouver?
The Chair: Your time is up, Ms. Fry.
Mr. Chris Grinham: —is to make sure that permission is asked
for and not forgiveness later.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Grinham.
Our time has now expired for the day. The bells are going as well.
On behalf of the committee, I thank our witnesses very kindly.
Ms. Landolt, Chief Larkin, Mr. Grinham, thank you so much for
appearing before the committee. Your comments are sincerely
appreciated.
We are adjourned.
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