Letter to the Editor

Hooked on power and money China continues to oppress and kill Tibetan people using military force.

Hooked on power and money

China continues to oppress and kill Tibetan people using military force.

Human rights are violated in China as well. Animal rights in China don’t exist.

Environmental degradation continues at full speed.

The Yukon Party continues to deal with China as if all is just wonderful!

Way to go, Premier Dennis Fentie!

Let’s trash our environment to support the ongoing atrocities committed by the Chinese government.

Many thanks to Todd Hardy for having the backbone and compassion for the lives of others.

It’s very good to know that not everyone is hell bent on power and money.

Boycott China!

Mike Grieco

Whitehorse

Drug users are

also human beings

Re Goddamn the pusher van, say harm-reduction detractors:

Consider the last time you had a cup of coffee, drank alcohol, smoked a cigarette or took a Tylenol.

These socially accepted actions are all forms of drug use, which may emotionally and physically damage the health of the user.

The use of illicit drugs is seen as a taboo in society, but why do we not condemn the practice of all forms of drug use?

The harm-reduction approach takes a value-neutral view of illicit drug use and users.

It sees illicit drug use as no more intrinsically immoral, criminal, or medically deviant than the use of licit drugs and other lifestyle practices.

The stigma attached to drug users, marginalizing them within communities, is intolerable.

Drug users should be treated as human equals.

The harm-reduction approach does not preach abstinence, instead it recognizes that abstinence-based programs are not successful.

Commanding others that they have to stop using drugs does not work.

Harm Reduction respects the autonomy of drug users with an emphasis on choice.

Individual drug users differ in how ready they are for change, and should be viewed as capable of making personal decisions.

This view can empower the drug user.

Being valued as a person with intrinsic worth can in turn motivate the user to think about self-worth and improving their own life.

As a result, some users do seek addiction treatment and choose abstinence.

Harm Reduction is practical. It focuses on the direct and attainable objective to reduce drug-related harm.

The development of user-centered programs avoids alienating users from the programs that are supposed to benefit them. Too often drug users are currently not given the same health-care rights that others receive. The system does not cater to them in the least.

When a person smokes and develops lung cancer as a result, they are treated. It is, thus, only moral that we care for those with health problems related to their drug of choice. The harm-reduction approach supports those who use illicit drugs.

Harm-reduction strategies include the creation of safe injection sites, needle exchanges, safe-crack kits and methadone maintenance, to name a few.

These programs are central and crucial to the vulnerable communities where marginalized drug users are found.

Providing clean, safe equipment and environment, the programs offer outreach by providing the knowledge and the resources needed for change, helping those who may not be able to help themselves.

Blood-borne illnesses such as hepatitis C virus and HIV/AIDS are transmitted through shared needles. According to Health Canada, half of all HCV infections are associated with injection drug use.

This is preventable.

By providing sterile equipment, all medical costs of ingesting drugs in an unhygienic manner can be eliminated.

Along with the human cost of dangerous drug use, there is a substantial health cost that burdens the system. The harm-reduction strategy emphasizes safety.

With registered nurses onsite, drug overdoses and unhygienic injection are controlled.

This brings greater benefit to the community by decreasing the overall health risk.

Although some might say that the harm-reduction model promotes drug use, this is absurd.

The model at no point endorses the use of illicit drugs, but rather accepts that they are a reality in society, directing essential attention to those who use.

The approach removes the risk that marginalized drug users could pass on to others, benefiting society as a whole.

Without the harm-reduction strategy, the health-care system will become flooded, resulting in increased costs to everyone. Policies need to address this issue.

There are examples of what works.

Insite, a needle-exchange facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside oversees 18,000 injections monthly.

There has been no rise in drug use or crime within the community.

This serves as a model for the type of programs that need to be available to all drug users.

Not just policy changes, but additional outreach programs need to be developed throughout Canada.

Further grassroots programs, such as needle exchanges, must be established.

These programs need to be made more accessible to marginalized groups, through convenient locations and around-the-clock hours.

To clean the streets, the government needs to not ignore but incorporate illicit drug users into society.

The public’s perceptions of illicit drug use must change. Stigmatization and marginalization of drug users is not acceptable. They are no different than you or I.

The expansion of innovative harm-reduction strategies is vital in supporting all drug users.

The harm-reduction approach incorporates the necessary conceptual, practical and policy initiatives required to decrease the harm related to drug use.

Brooke Sinclair

Kingston, ON

Missed opportunity

Re Goddamn the pusher van, say harm-reduction detractors:

What an opportunity to explore our social values Friday’s Yukon News provided!

Too bad your writers characterized their reports as suggesting what is happening is socially irresponsible rather than exploring how we resolve the real dilemmas and delicate balances of individual and collective rights or of freedom and responsibility.

The article on harm reduction, and specifically the outreach van providing safe crack kits, fails to explore the real benefits of helping drug users avoid HIV, hepatitis C and other health risks related to shared equipment.

Rather, you leave any reader who does not know more about the van and the range of wonderful services it provides with the impression its main role is to slyly move about town enabling druggies.

The implication seems to be that we should ignore the needs of these people and leave them to do whatever harm to themselves they choose with no efforts by the rest of us to help them.

Alternatively, the article about psychiatric patients seems to suggest we should be taking away all rights to independence from someone suffering a mental illness.

It has been suggested that the balanced legal processes — developed with much public consultation — are not enough to ensure that people who have a mental illness will not harm themselves or others or get the help they need voluntarily.

The implication seems to be that anyone who is at risk should be held against their will pretty much regardless of how imminent or serious the risk is and whether or not they are voluntarily seeking help.

Who your writer thinks might make these judgments if it is not the physicians and the Capacity and Consent board is not clear.

Finally the editorial suggests the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods law is wrong to provide a way for a community to protect itself from crime in its midst.

You suggest somehow that to support this law is in conflict with opposing arbitrary Chinese government brutality against Tibetans.

If your articles create dialogue about our social values, that is a good thing. If they allow simplistic jumping to conclusions that the outreach van and Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act are bad, harm-reduction initiatives are somehow either too much or not enough support to drug abusers, and more precipitous restraint for the mentally ill without due process is needed, then you have done a disservice.

Given the Yukon News’ record for award-winning journalism I expected more of you. You have let me and your readers down.

Laura MacFeeters

Whitehorse

Harm reduction

misrepresented

Re Goddamn the pusher van, say harm-reduction detractors (the News, April 4):

I would like to address and clarify several concerns that were raised as a result of this inaccurate and borderline slanderous article.

First, I, and the rest of the service providers of the outreach van, are very glad to hear that Ben Gribben is no longer smoking crack cocaine.

We are also very glad to hear that he likely does not have hepatitis C — contracted from sharing unsafe drug inhalation equipment such as pop cans, light sockets and what have you during his drug-using days.

Thankfully, he was able to access a clean safe pipe that prevented him from now having to live with a debilitating liver disease.

In that regard, harm reduction, as a philosophy and a practice, did exactly what it is supposed to do: keep Ben and others like him from contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

Ben, we’re glad to know you’re healthy and will be around a long time to be a father to your child.

Second, the article suggests that distributing harm-reduction equipment, such as new syringes and safer crack kits, leads to drug use.

While this argument is compelling and leads to thinking that a community’s drug problem could be curbed with the cessation of harm-reduction programs, this is not true and has never been true anywhere.

There is no evidence to suggest a causal link between harm-reduction programs and the increase or uptake of drug use in a community.

Drug use exists in Whitehorse regardless of whether or not we, as a community, want to do something about it.

Furthermore, for reporter Barb McLeod and the editor of the Yukon News to publish an article titled: “Goddamn the pusher van…” is tantamount to slander and lacks serious journalistic integrity.

Both McLeod and the editor of the Yukon News should be ashamed of publishing such a headline and for what they are implying therein.

McLeod’s reporting, or lack thereof, lacks a balanced investigation into what the outreach van does, who it reaches, how it is supported, and the principles it stands for.

The outreach van is a well-respected community program that not only is delivered by four organizations, but is supported by local Yukon businesses, many volunteers and the Yukon territorial government.

By aligning the work of the van with something as unsavoury as drug pushing, puts into question McLeod’s competency as a reporter. It is evident that very little investigation occurred here.

It goes without saying that the outreach van is no more in the business of pushing drug use than any other NGO in our community, including Blue Feather Youth of Today Society.

McLeod also fails to present a balanced report when she extensively cites The Canadian Centre for Policy Studies.

The centre is not non-partisan, as she claims, and is in the business of promoting conservative policies.

Conservatives have routinely stood out against harm reduction and embrace enforcement strategies as the best means for dealing with substance use.

Today in Canada, enforcement receives 95 per cent of all money directed at dealing with drug use, while prevention, treatment and harm reduction share the remaining five per cent.

 Even with this heavy emphasis on enforcement, drug use prevails. Enforcement strategies have time and again failed the people who use drugs and the communities in which they live.

Perhaps it is time to spend more resources on programs that do work: prevention, treatment, and harm reduction. Just imagine what we could do.

Finally, it is important to recognize that no one ever has to choose between compassion for people who use drugs and regard for their capacity to be responsible for themselves as the article suggests.

We as a community can demonstrate compassion for people who use drugs by working towards keeping them free from disease and at the same time provide support and education that will allow them to make decisions that we can all live with in the long term.

Patricia Bacon, chair, Harm Reduction Network of Yukon, executive director, Blood Ties Four Directions Centre, Whitehorse

Prohibition didn’t work

Re Goddamn the pusher van, say harm-reduction detractors:

We Americans have been there, done that. Trying to stamp out a drug only causes more societal damage.

We learned that when we tried to stamp out alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Our one mistake was thinking that the lesson applied only to alcohol.

Leading up to 1920, we heard the same kinds of stories, all of them true: the “bad husband” spending his weekly pay at the local saloon on Friday; alcoholism making men unable to work and making families dysfunctional, and industrial accidents caused by alcohol. We heard about public drunkenness, women selling their bodies for a drink, and cirrhosis of the liver.

In light of those social ills, why did we re-legalize alcohol in 1933, and when “fetal alcohol syndrome” was discovered in the 1970s, why didn’t we go back?

The key is to understand that prohibition stops only casual users, who cause no societal damage; it does not stop abusers, who will get their drug whether legal or not.

So, rather than spend tax money on all users, spend it on abusers, out in the open where they can be studied and treated.

Some day we Americans will understand that the lesson applies to all drugs, not just to alcohol.

John Chase, adviser, www.novembercoalition.org, Palm Harbor, Florida