Harm Reduction Strategies Equal Dantes Inferno



Of all the crackpot schemes to intoxicate City Hall’s leftist contingent, the Toronto Drug Strategy that comes before council this week rates top billing.

I suspect the fix is already in to approve the strategy’s 66 recommendations — which cost $300,000 to create — given Mayor David Miller’s recent habit of discounting opposition to his pet agendas.

(Susan Shepherd, the drug strategy’s project manager, is married to Bruce Scott, one of the mayor’s key aides. Asked whether this might present a potential conflict of interest, Scott said no.)

The drug strategy itself — led by Coun. Kyle Rae and produced by the board of health — was developed supposedly to better co-ordinate drug prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts between agencies, hospitals, addiction treatment facilities, school boards, the police and so on.

“There’s been no comprehensive strategy since crack arrived in Toronto in 1988,” Rae said last week.

To be fair, there are some good proposals in the strategy concerning education, treatment, enforcement and prevention. But they’re few and far between. The rest is heavily skewed towards trendy “harm reduction” schemes, more studies, committees, the need for more city staff and in my view, more reasons to keep the fuzzy-wuzzy enablers in the drug counselling industry thriving.

The strategy advocates distributing more city-funded “safer crack kits” and calls on officials to consider establishing a “safe injection site” modelled on the one opened in Vancouver a year ago. The public health protectors argue that “harm reduction” services — which encourage illegal drug users to continue to inject their poisons in a safe environment using clean equipment — lead to fewer overdoses and less open use of drugs on the streets.

I can’t fathom how the same health board that has banned smoking virtually everywhere in this city can brazenly promote and enable the use of illegal drugs. Do these do-gooders ever think about the harm their strategies could inflict on unsuspecting neighbourhoods?

I recently wrote about how a cache of used needles and “safer crack kit” paraphernalia was found in the Sumach-Shuter park, right across from a community centre and a school. That’s become a regular occurrence, I’m told.

Earlier this month, former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell, a supporter of safe-injection sites, told Toronto’s executive committee it’s important not to get “hung up” on such facilities — they help police get drug users off the streets.

But a retired nurse from Toronto told me last week she’d just returned from Vancouver and was quite horrified by what she saw in the drug-plagued Downtown Eastside area, where the injection site is located. Asked where the 600-900 people who use the site daily get their drugs (mostly heroin and crack), she said: “The dealers hang around with impunity on the corner of Hastings and Main and the police don’t touch them.”


She described the neighbourhood alleys as a “true Dante’s inferno” with addicts desperately grasping on the ground for a few bits of lost powder. At the referral site for addicts wanting to use the safe-injection facility, she said staff told her they were trying to create an “oasis of calm. But it all made her think of a blindfolded donkey chained to a water wheel and walking in circles.

“It’s no form of treatment whatsoever …I kept thinking it was like making an inexorable death more bearable,” she said.

I wish councillors could see what this woman saw and not simply swallow the health board’s party line.

But on this issue, your city councillors seem drugged into submission.

Source:The Toronto Sun December 4, 2005 Sunday

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