Skip to content

a triumph of reason over dogma

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted an exemption from criminal law to Insite, Vancouver's safe-injection site. The decision is a victory for health care in Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted an exemption from criminal law to Insite, Vancouver’s safe-injection site.

The decision is a victory for health care in Canada.

But it represents a stern rebuke to Tony Clement, who was once the federal health minister and the fellow who decided to recriminalize the injection site.

After reviewing the circumstances of the case, the court ruled firmly against Clement and the Harper government’s tough-on-crime approach to the injection site.

“The effect of that decision, but for the trial judge’s interim order, would have been to prevent injection drug users from accessing the health services offered by Insite, threatening the health and indeed the lives of the potential clients,” wrote Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin in her decision, which was supported by all other eight judges.

Clement’s decision violated a citizen’s right to life, liberty and the security of person, she added.

The decision was arbitrary and not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

It also undermined the purpose of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which include public health and safety.

And the decision was disproportionate - the denial of health services and the increased risk of death and disease to the users outweighs any benefit that might come from the absolute prohibition on possession of illegal drugs.

After this colossal bungle, the Supreme Court could have tossed the matter of an exemption back to the government for consideration.

“This remedy would be inadequate,” wrote McLachlin. “These claimants would be cast back into the application process they have tried and failed at, and made to await the minister’s decision based on a reconsideration of the same facts. Litigation might break out anew.”

So the court simply ordered an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

It was, after a thorough review of facts that weighed the health benefits and potential danger Insite posed the public, a rational decision.

And that’s something McLachlin and the other judges realized would not come from the current federal government itself.

Choosing stakes over pixels

The Liberals have quietly abandoned their ill-considered promise to bring digital staking to the territory.

Such a program would have allowed people to stake swaths of the territory from the comfort of their kitchen table.

It is easy to see the allure.

Such technology promises far less impact on the environment.

It wouldn’t involve noisy, gas-chugging helicopters, planes and ATVs.

It takes all the grunt work out of the job. It is, therefore, cheaper and easier for modern geologists.

It would also be safer - less exposure to crashes, foul weather and animal encounters.

All of which looks good on the surface.

But it’s far less romantic.

And, more importantly, it would kneecap the business that has grown up around the exploration industry.

As well, it would allow people from around the globe to simply lock down vast regions of our territory with a few simple clicks.

They’d still have to work the claims they staked, of course, but it would cut out all the sweat equity they pumped into the place knocking tagged, wooden stakes into the ground.

There’s something to be said for doing things old school.

The Liberal party was momentarily beguiled by technology. These days, that’s an easy trap.

But they quickly heard how stupid such a plan would be. And they abandoned the idea.

That shows a willingness to listen and to respond quickly to valid concerns.

In politicians, those aren’t necessarily bad qualities.