Opposition is not just ‘ideology’

Re: Take ideology out of decisions, by Keith Baldrey, In My Opinion, Burnaby NOW, May 7.
Mr. Baldrey makes a number of misleading statements about me and about opponents of Insite in general. I am the author of the “flawed and questionable report” criticizing the Insite evaluations that Mr. Baldrey referred to. Mr. Baldrey and other supporters of Insite and of harm reduction as the new way to deal with drugs seem to lack any real argument for Insite and its parent ideology – yes, ideology – so they attack the critics themselves. So please let me respond.
First, my report was not flawed or questionable. I am more than amply qualified to comment on printed research reports. In fact, any grad student would see the flawed assumptions and conclusions made in the Insite evaluations, regardless of what journal they were published in. I have worked in the addictions field in B.C. and in Canada for almost 30 years, and, until I disagreed with harm reduction, I was well respected by the people who now attack me merely for expressing professional concerns about the direction drug policy was taking – downward.
Second, I did not write the report for a “prohibition group,” as Mr. Baldrey asserts. I wrote it for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a key stakeholder in Insite and in drug problems in Canada. They merely wanted a review by someone not ideologically wed to Insite. I stand behind the report and everything I said as true and valid based on reading the published Insite research.
I did not write the paper as director of research for the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, or for them. Incidentally, the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, in which my article was published, is a scientific peer-reviewed journal. Public accusations otherwise should be made with caution.
Third, my paper was but one of three academic reports critical of Insite. Garth Davies, a colleague of Neil Boyd’s at Simon Fraser University, wrote one that was equally critical. A federal panel of experts recently released another, saying essentially the same things.
For example, drug overdose deaths have actually increased in Vancouver and in the Downtown Eastside since Insite was initiated. Insite may or may not be preventing up to one overdose death a year. This is fact.
But Mr. Baldrey refers to reports claiming overdoses have gone down. Somebody is indeed putting out misleading information, but it is not me or others concerned about Insite. It is Insite and its supporters. The fact is that Insite is not doing what it set out to do – reduce infections, prevent overdose deaths and reduce public disorder.
Nor is it demonstrating a unique ability to get people into treatment where they belong. It is drawing funds that could be used for more effective things and taking our attention from the real problems – drug use and addiction.
Mr. Baldrey refers to specific people as experts in harm reduction, etc. What he does not say is that these individuals, and many others involved with Insite, are avid proponents of legalizing drugs. I do not fault them or anyone else for holding this ideology, except when people use their positions or authority to unilaterally push it on the public or to lend credence to it by their names, when no such credence exists.
The fact that so many supporters of Insite and of harm reduction are so rabidly pushing it and skewing the facts even when flaws are identified, and that they disparage their opponents, tells me they are so caught up in ideology themselves that they can no longer be objective.
And as for “moralizing,” no one is moralizing here. The Insite test study did not meet its stated objectives. That is not moralizing.
But Mr. Baldrey seems to be saying that any “moralizing” is bad. The fact is “moralizing” is to some extent inevitable in any human discourse. We all have some moral reference point that underlies our ideas and choices at the deepest levels. Trying to entirely exorcize human debate of values – the outgrowth of our morality – is itself impossible.
Mr. Baldrey, you are very loose and misleading in your accusations. I could go on in pointing them out. But suffice it to say, throwing mud and attacking people is neither professional nor a sign of a noble cause.
It comes from an arrogant belief that anyone who disagrees with harm reduction or Insite is somehow stupid, misinformed or an ideologue. I am frankly embarrassed at how deeply this blind arrogance has gotten into otherwise intelligent people and at the utter lack of professionalism their attacks display.
Colin Mangham, PhD, is a Langley resident.
Source: Canada.com – Burnaby Now May 10th 2008

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