Last Saturday Margaret Wente wrote this disgraceful piece on harm reduction in Vancouver.
In short, what is written is a compilation of anecdotal statements that ignore the actual research and science that has measured Insite’s positive impact. A quote from a sergeant who may or may not have an axe to grind is apparently worth more than the numerous peer reviewed articles in publications like the New England Journal of Medicine or The Lancet. This is of course Wente’s MO – she doesn’t need science or research, like Colbert her gut is her guide – something we learned long ago from her coverage of global warming.
This sadly, is not the worst of it. Wente goes on to misrepresent both the goals of Insite and the position of its advocates.
No one – least of all Insite’s advocates – believes Insite is the entirety of the solution. The goal is, and always has been to have a complete response (hence the four pillars). Insite seeks to reduce harm but it can’t ‘solve’ the drug problem alone, no one claimed it would and judging it by such a bar is misleading.
Is rehabilitation and treatment essential? Absolutely – something Insite supporters also believe. This is why OnSite (a temporary treatment facility pointedly not included in Wente’s article) was placed atop Insite so that users would have somewhere to stay while a permanent facility was found for them. Insite was never designed to replace treatment, but to reduce harm for those who refused or could not get it as well as provide a vehicle to help users seek help and get on treatment.
There are plenty of commentators I disagree with but enjoy reading because they challenge my assumptions and provoke interesting or thoughtful insights. Sadly, most of the time I read Wente I’m reminded why she’s not one of them.
Two additional points. The first is how the injection site has become an East vs. West phenomenon. Here in Vancouver the debate is over. Insite has public support, on the street, in the newspapers and in the halls of power. Even the comments in the Globe reflect a bias in favour from those commenting from Vancouver especially but BC in general.
Second, I initially wrote this in the comment section on the globe website (where one is exposed to some truly horrifying thinking) and thought nothing more of it until Andrew F. emailed me a supportive note. And I thought comments on newspaper articles were simply a cathartic exercise!