Pivot Legal Society and Canadian Drug Policy Coalition successfully defend supervised consumption at Federal Court of Canada

For Immediate Release

February 28, 2019

The precedent-setting decision protects public health and harm reduction efforts from unnecessary barriers and interference from third parties

Vancouver, BC – This week, the Honourable Justice Mosley released his decision on a judicial review application brought forward by Edmonton’s Chinatown and Area Business Association (CABA). CABA challenged the approval of three desperately-needed supervised consumption sites in downtown Edmonton, asserting that it was not adequately consulted in Health Canada’s decision to approve the services.

In December 2018, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC), represented by Pivot Legal Society’s Caitlin Shane and Ethos Law Group’s Monique Pongracic-Speier (QC), intervened in the case, arguing that CABA and other third parties do not have a mandatory right to weigh in on the approval of consumption sites in Canada. Instead, public health and safety should be the principal concern of the government in considering applications, as this would best protect the Constitutional rights to safety and security for people who use drugs accessing life-saving services.

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Justice Mosley agreed with our arguments and dismissed CABA’s application, citing directly from our submissions. In his decision, he writes:

“The process [to approve a supervised consumption site] is both discretionary and non-adjudicative. The principal and mandatory focus of the legislation is on the question of whether [approval] would provide public health benefits. Any consideration of negative impacts on the local community is secondary and discretionary.”

“This is a precedent-setting decision helping people to save lives amid a national health crisis,” said Donald MacPherson, Executive Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. “Justice Mosley’s decision means that frontline health care providers wishing to offer life-saving supervised consumption services can do so without unnecessary delays. It restores public health as the key concern for approving these sites.”

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and Pivot Legal Society argued that allowing community groups extraordinary consultation privileges would create new barriers to supervised consumption services. The Federal Court of Canada agreed, and the Constitutionally-protected right to health services for people who use drugs rightly took precedence. We are encouraged by the Court’s findings.

Contact

Peter Kim 
Communications Manager, Pivot Legal Society
peter@pivotlegal.org 
604-229-6128 (cell) 

Contact

Donald MacPherson 
Executive Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
donald_macpherson@sfu.ca 
778-938-4404 (cell)

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About Pivot Legal Society

Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award-winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.

About Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Founded in 2010 and based out of Simon Fraser University, the CDPC is comprised of over 70 organizations within Canada advocating for drug policies that promote public health, human rights, and social inclusion.