Battle of the United Nations over Victoria harm reduction!

April 7, 2009 at 11:04 pm 1 comment

An article in today’s Times Colonist berates Victoria for not having a needle exchange, claiming it goes against United Nations health guidelines. Says health researcher Thomas Kerr:

“I think British Columbians should be very concerned about the fact that a relatively wealthy place like Victoria is not adhering to international guidelines regarding HIV prevention,” Kerr said.

“It’s an embarrassment and I wouldn’t be surprised if the UN Human Rights Commission pronounced that the city of Victoria is violating essential rights by not providing those services,” he said.

All is well then, right? Except that another United Nations body, the International Narcotics Control Board says that safe consumption sites and distribution of crack cocaine kits contravene the UN convention against traffic in illicit drugs.

…as they are facilities where persons can abuse with impunity drugs acquired on the illicit market, [safe consumption sites] contravene the most fundamental principle of the international drug control treaties: drugs should be only used for medical or scientific purposes.

So the UN is mad at us either way. What will the effect be for Victoria? From the health perspective it bolsters the argument for harm reduction but as far as the illicit drug angle goes, the INCB’s opinion doesn’t count for much around here.

Entry filed under: City Hall, needle exhange, safe injection sites, social issues.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  April 10, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    It amazes me how piously Canadians still act toward the UN. Because Canada doesn’t have the international clout of certain other nations, some Canadians _want_ the UN to have CLOUT. But the UN isn’t pure, so why take its every word as gospel? And look how silly that gets when contradictory messages emerge (as in this case)! The UN is a political body, not an oracle.

    IMO, it’s more of an embarrassment that Canada has such a dismal environmental record, for example. And no amount of haranguing from any other body outside the country will get Canada to change that – change has to come from within Canada.

    So by that same token, any “health researcher” relying on supra-national bodies (aka UN) to “shame” a nation-state (aka Canada) into action is just …well, pissing in the wind.

    The UN is like the Catholic church. If you happen to be a believer and count yourself among the docile faithful, then maybe you’re happy knowing there’s some kind of “authority” telling you what’s what. If you’re an independent thinker, a skeptic, an enlightened sort who likes to query the terms of reference, then simply following whatever the UN comes up with isn’t going to satisfy your critical mind.

    Frankly, on this issue, I couldn’t care less what the UN thinks of Victoria (and I doubt that the bureaucrats at the UN are actually paying attention to us any way, so what’s the point of Kerr’s conjuring of their approbation of us). I want Victoria to address the issue in a way that delivers the greatest benefit to the city.


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