Pivot at the Alberta Harm Reduction Conference

Pivot's health and drug policy campaigner, Adrienne Smith, is at the 13th annual Alberta Harm Reduction Conference in Edmonton, AB. Here's what we're talking about.

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

Harm reduction policy in Canada | Supervised Injection Services under threat

June 2 - 10:45 am - 12:15 pm

Supervised Injection Services under threat: Bill C-2 the Respect for Communities Act and Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society 2011 SCC 44.

Supervised injection services are specialised health care facilities where people who inject drugs can access harm reduction services, get connected to other health care services— including detox—and be supported by nurses who are trained to detect the symptoms of narcotic overdose and can treat it. 

There are over 70 such health care facilities around the globe, but only one in Canada.  Vancouver’s Insite was established in response to a public health emergency. A decade’s worth of research during that time, as well as ample evidence from international facilities have confirmed that supervised injection services are both effective and necessary.

The law around supervised injection in Canada was set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in a landmark 2011 case called Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society 2011 SCC 44. That case said drug users have a constitutional right to access supervised injection services.

Recently the Conservative government introduced Bill C-2 the Respect for Communities Act. The new bill will change the law and make supervised injection services more difficult to operate legally. The federal Minister of health recently told a parliamentary committee that this piece of legislation was required by the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Insite. Pivot's Health and Drug Policy Lawyer Adrienne Smith will explain how the minister is wrong.

The Case for Heroin Assisted Treatment in Canada

June 2 - 2:30 pm - 3:15 pm

Last year, five individuals (who had been patients in the SALOME study) and Providence Health Care initiated a constitutional challenge to federal regulations that prevent doctors from prescribing heroin assisted therapy to their patients. Pivot represents the five individuals who participated in the SALOME study, which looked at the efficacy of hydomorphone as a form of addiction treatment and compared it to heroin, which had been proven effective in the previous NAOMI study.

At the end of the trial a number of the participants, who are now the plaintiffs, wanted to continue their therapy because they were experiencing significant health benefits. Their treating physicians agreed that prescription heroin was appropriate medical treatment for them. Initially Health Canada granted a number of approvals, allowing the plaintiffs to continue with their therapy after the study, but the federal government quickly stepped in and amended the regulations in order to prevent approval for prescription heroin under Canada's Special Access Programme.

The plaintiffs brought a constitutional challenge to the government's changes to the regulations, and at the same time, went to court to apply for an injunction so they could continue with the therapy while they are waiting for their case to go to trial. They won the injunction application, and treatment for the first participants began in November.

In this presentation Pivot Lawyer Adrienne Smith will explain the law that gives people with heroin dependance a right to access prescription heroin, including an update on the case.

For a full list of sessions and conference schedule, click here.