December 14: Rally! Police out of Health Care!

SOLID & HRV Rally:

Date: Tuesday, December 14
Time: 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Place: Victoria Police Department, 850 Caledonia

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Members of SOLID (Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users) and Harm Reduction Victoria (HRV) will be addressing the Victoria Police Board on Tuesday, December 14, 2010.

Join us to make sure the Police Board hears us loud and clear:

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HRV is attending Victoria Police Board meeting to demand that the Victoria Police Department (VPD) retract its position of excluding harm reduction health services from certain areas of the city, particularly those where people who use drugs are at higher risk.

Recently, the VPD has increased its efforts to prevent people who use illicit drugs from accessing safer drug use supplies in the 900 block of Pandora. Many people who use this area are impacted by the failure of coordinated leadership by the City of Victoria, Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) and Provincial authorities to adequately address homelessness, poverty and the devastating impacts of stigma, discrimination, and poor-bashing.

Last week, we learned that members of the VPD had successfully pressured the Pandora Pharmacy to cease their distribution of safer drug use supplies, despite support for the practice from the BC Centre for Disease Control and Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall.

The VPD did not intervene through any application of law; there is no law or bylaw preventing the distribution of clean supplies in the 900 block of Pandora, or anywhere else in the city. The Police continue to incorrectly refer to the so-called ‘no-go zone’ as an area where harm reduction supplies must not be distributed. In reality, the zone is a confusing public relations mess with real health consequences for our society’s most marginalized residents.

VIHA Chief Medial Officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, and Medical Health Officer, Dr. Murray Fyfe, have both publicly confirmed that the so-called ‘no-go zone’ is a non-existent policy, while the ranks of VIHA Public Health continue to require only 1 of the 3 primary needle exchange service providers in the city to abide by it, with the strong support of the VPD.

The VPD have stopped the legitimate distribution of the critical harm reduction health services once provided by Pandora Pharmacy through bullying, harassment and intimidation. Through the misguided and ignorant assumption that “harm reduction” is a synonym for disorder, crime, and chaos, the police have usurped powers rightly belonging to agencies legitimately entrusted with delivering health care services.

The VPD cling to the non-existent no-go zone to support their campaign of social cleansing in the 900 block of Pandora. Current VPD Chief Graham led an intensified policing initiative in the Downtown Eastside when he served as Vancouver Police Chief, the results of which were shown to be a reinforced and exacerbated ‘risk environment’ for people who use drugs and the larger community, including discouraged safer injection practices, increased unsafe disposal of syringes, and increased displacement of people who use drugs. Comprehensive harm reduction programs, including dedicated fixed site needle exchange and supervised consumption services, successfully engage and support people who use drugs, provide private space for drug consumption, remove used supplies from our streets, and provide an effective and human-rights based alternative to the exacerbation of stigma, marginalization and fear perpetuated by intensified policing.

The VPD must cease their active exclusion of harm reduction services where they are needed, and cease their tactics of harassment, intimidation and bullying towards harm reduction health care providers.

Links to background info:

Police Board Minutes (July 2010)

Support essential services in 900-block Pandora

VIHA Chief Medical Health Office Murray Fyfe on ‘no-service zone’

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