Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks registered his opposition to safe injection sites during a debate in the House of Commons last week.
Last week, the House was discussing second reading of a bill proposed by the Conservative government called the Respect For Communities Act.
If passed, the act will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to give government greater control over when and where safe injection sites are approved.
“The Respect For Communities Act came about as a result of communities across Canada enquiring about safe injection sites,” MP Wilks told the Townsman on Tuesday.
The Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver has been operating for a decade, as a safe place where people inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment, to housing and community supports.
“Insite has been operating in Vancouver for just over 10 years, and other communities have been enquiring,” said MP Wilks. “But there is no regulation or policy with regard to how that would be from the perspective of public consultation and all of the other aspects that come with it. This act was brought forward to deal with those questions.”
In the House of Commons on November 4, Wilks spoke up in favour of the Respect For Communities Act, and against supervised injection sites.
“Canadian families expect and deserve safe and healthy communities in which to live and work. That is why our government has consistently delivered the tools needed for all parties to contribute to keeping our streets and communities safe,” he began.
“All controlled substances have the potential to be abused. That is why they are called controlled substances. However, the risks are increased when those substances are unregulated and untested and are bought on the street, as illegal drugs often are.
“For this reason, our government is recommending amendments to the act, through the bill currently before the House, that would strengthen the legislation and better protect Canadian families and communities.”
The Respect For Communities Act came about after a 2011 Supreme Court decision that found safe injection sites legal when approved, and identified criteria that should be considered in approving sites, such as local conditions that indicate a need for the site, community support or opposition, and its impact on crime rates.
“These drugs are inherently dangerous. They are illegal for a reason. We know that the proceeds from the sale of these substances contribute to organized crime and make our streets and communities less safe,” Wilks said in the House.
“It is easy to lose sight of what we are talking about. I can tell members, from personal experience in my former career as a police officer, that heroin is, without a doubt, one of the most addictive drugs known. It is physically and psychologically addictive. It is one of the worst, if not the worst, drugs to come off of. Think about the worst days and times anyone in this place has had, and multiply it by 100. People addicted to this drug will do anything for their next fix, including, but not limited to, shoplifting, robbery, break and enter, assault, and many other Criminal Code offences.
“I urge all members of this House to stand and support the Respect For Communities Act and help give Canadian families safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.”
In response, NDP MP Libby Davies for Vancouver East asked Wilks if he would support a supervised injection facility in his community.
“I personally would not support any safe injection site anywhere in Canada,” he responded.
Speaking to the Townsman on Tuesday, Wilks went over the debate and why he has taken this position.
“My issue with safe injection sites is that most of these people have underlying issues that need to be dealt with and we need to find ways of having more recovery houses and those types of opportunities for these people,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be promoting or condoning the use of an illegal drug that in my opinion is one of the worst drugs known. It’s a nasty drug; there’s no other way of putting it.”
The focus should instead be on treatment for addictions, he went on.
“We need treatment facilities, we need recovery centres, we need more mental health facilities. That’s the larger issue of that type of scenario,” said Wilks.
The Respect For Communities Act is at second reading now. If passed, it will go to a committee, then returned for third reading. If passed, it will go to the Senate for approval.