BC’s NDP Ignores Drug Deaths
What is euphemistically known as “drug overdose” became the
leading cause of death among British Columbians aged 30 to 45 in 1993. The
Provincial NDP government assigned BC’s Chief Coroner Vince Cain to set
up a task force and investigate this epidemic, in order to stop this tragic
waste of human life. Cain spent eight months touring BC, meeting with IV
drug users and health care workers and conducting other research.
In January of 1995 Cain released his report, which made sixty-two
recommendations to different provincial ministries. Despite the fact that
Vince Cain is an ex-cop who described himself as “more right wing
than Preston Manning” his report strongly advocated the
legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of the
possession of other substances by those addicted to them.
When the Coroner’s Report came out there was a flurry of activity among
Vancouver’s Health Professionals and Drug Policy people.
Meetings were held, subcommittees were formed, agendas were drawn up and
minutes were taken. The apparent end result? That everyone in the city is
chomping at the bit to decriminalize and set up a legal harm reduction
infrastructure, but can’t because, get this, it’s against the law!
Although the Vancouver Needle Exchange does very impressive work with
few resources, Vancouver’s most progressive harm reduction centre is run
entirely by the users themselves. The Back Alley is a “safer
fixing site” in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It’s
safer and more friendly than actually shooting in the alley, but
without a nurse on staff and the money for truly appropriate facilities it
can’t boast of being perfect.
What it is however, is controversial. BC TV station UTV ran an
expose on the place, claiming that it was disease ridden and being used as a
front for more illicit activities. Now what little funding they had has been
suspended and it’s possible that all their good work will be undone.
This is a tragic setback for what was an excellent example of grassroots harm
reduction in action.
It has been almost two years since the Coroner’s Report was released, and
about 600 people have died from drug overdoses in BC the interim. Despite the
fact that both the provincial and federal NDP party policies officially
support the decriminalization of all drug use, the BC NDP government
has done nothing to implement the many excellent and life-saving
recommendations of the Chief Coroner’s Report.
BC’s Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh even appeared in the Province
newspaper as the “no” side in a debate on marijuana decrim.
Apparently his striking out alone against party policy and the
Coroner’s Report wasn’t worthy of rebuke, since Premier Glen Clark
didn’t comment on the issue, and no-one else seemed to notice the
contradiction. Maybe we’re just getting used to them.
Vince Cain retired in September, and with his departure his
controversial and ignored report was briefly mentioned in the media once
If you’d like to see BC’s NDP government act upon the Chief Coroner’s
recommendations and their own party policy, contact Premier Glen Clark at
(604) 431-8119, or email
Also call Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh at (604) 322-6375,
Write to both of them at: Parliament Buildings, Victoria, V8V 1X4.
Contact IV Feed through Melissa Eror, (604) 879-4830.