For Immediate Release
December 10, 2018
A precedent-setting legal challenge that could affect harm reduction efforts across Canada
(Photo credit: Peter Kim | Pivot Legal drug policy lawyer Caitlin Shane and Monique Pongracic-Speier, QC, Ethos Law Group LLP at Federal Court of Canada | December 10, 2018)
Edmonton, AB – Today Caitlin Shane, Pivot Legal Society’s drug policy lawyer, and Monique Pongracic-Speier, QC, of Ethos Law Group LLP, argued on behalf of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) to protect public health and the Charter rights (Section 7 right to life, liberty, and security of the person) of people who require supervised consumption services.
In October, Edmonton’s Chinatown and Area Business Association brought forward a legal challenge (judicial review) to Health Canada’s approval of supervised consumption services in downtown Edmonton, arguing it was not adequately consulted in the decision. If the challenge is successful, the decision could impact how supervised consumption sites across Canada are approved; namely, by adding unacceptable delays to the provision of life-saving health services.
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Pivot, acting on behalf of the CDPC (an intervener), argued that allowing community groups extraordinary consultation privileges will create new barriers to supervised consumption services that could infringe upon the Charter rights (right to security of the person) of people who use drugs.
“At a time when ten people a day are dying in Canada because of a toxic drug supply, we cannot afford additional barriers to life-saving harm reduction,” said Caitlin Shane, Pivot’s drug policy lawyer.
If third parties like the Chinatown and Area Business Association were allowed the rights they argue for, public health and the Charter rights of people who use drugs could be seriously threatened.”
In this case, the lives of people who use drugs are being measured against the interests of property owners and businesses. The former, along with the Constitutionally-protected right to health services, should always take precedence over the latter, and the approval of vital supervised consumption services should remain first and foremost a public health decision.
Peter Kim, Communications & Digital Engagement Manager
Pivot Legal Society
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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
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.