Vancouver Drug Czar Slams Harper Gov’t As He Exits

Donald MacPherson resigned as Vancouver's Drug Czar, calling the War on Drugs a failure and criticizing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.Donald MacPherson resigned as Vancouver’s Drug Czar, calling the War on Drugs a failure and criticizing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.The author of Vancouver’s ground-breaking Four Pillars drug strategy criticized the federal government’s “utterly failed” approach to drug use in his resignation notice this week.

Donald MacPherson said in an e-mail Tuesday to city staff: “[T]he approach to the drug problem that we have in Canada . . . [a]war-on-drugs approach has utterly failed over the past 40 years and must come to an end.

“The emperor truly has no clothes in this case,” said his e-mail.

“People who use drugs should not be criminalized, especially those that develop addictions and/or have mental-health problems or are vulnerable in some other way.” MacPherson said he was resigning after 12 years as the city’s drug-policy co-ordinator — the only municipal position of its kind in Canada — “for personal reasons.” “It is time for me to move on to the next adventure and to act on the strong desire to move beyond the municipal realm, build on what we have achieved here in Vancouver and work for policy change at the provincial, national and international level in the area of drug policy,” he wrote.

MacPherson blamed the criminalization of drugs for social ills and associated problems.

“Much of what plays out on the streets of Vancouver in the never-sleeping drug market — the selling, the using, the killing, the infections, the dying and the property crime — is a direct result of the criminalization of drugs,” said the e-mail.

“The nonsensical and seemingly never-ending struggle to keep a small program like Insite open for a population of seriously marginalized and at-risk injection drug users is another example of the counterproductive consequences of bad public policy at the federal level.” Four Pillars was struck as a comprehensive approach to reducing drug-overdose deaths and HIV infection caused by illegal drugs. It combines prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction.

The approach has involved much debate. Insite, Vancouver’s safe-injection site, has drawn particular heat. It operates under an exemption from federal drug laws from Health Canada, but has received little support from the ruling minority Conservative government.

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said MacPherson’s Four Pillars approach will remain central to Vancouver’s housing and social programs.

Jang said council has yet to decide whether to replace MacPherson. His resignation takes effect Oct. 2.

– Article from The Province.