Opinion Column

Columnist willfully ignorant of Vancouver street life

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Deceased Canadian actor, Cory Monteith. (REUTERS)

Deceased Canadian actor, Cory Monteith. (REUTERS)

“So the question is, if [Cory] Monteith were visiting virtually any other city in Canada, would he have been able to find heroin? Would he have died? I think the likelihood is much lower.” — Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald, July 21, 2013

Meet Licia Corbella, the Calgary columnist who prefers fiction to facts and has no hesitation using the death of Canadian-born Glee star Cory Monteith to attack harm reduction programs in Vancouver that have dramatically reduced heroin overdose fatalities.

The Calgary Herald scribe apparently lives in a surreal dream world where heroin is only found in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and even if you want to score smack, you can’t — unless you hang around outside the InSite safe injection site and ask drug users to find you a dealer.

Never mind the fact InSite and harm reduction strategies like needle exchanges have dramatically cut heroin overdose deaths in Vancouver.

Forget that every major Canadian city has heroin overdose deaths, including Calgary, where a record 16 kilograms of heroin was seized this April — enough for 800,000 doses.

Some commentators call Corbella’s opinions “ignorant.”

But I’ll go further — it is willful ignorance on Corbella’s part to promote her anti-harm reduction position.

“The point was for Vancouver to maybe rethink the whole harm reduction philosophy on the downtown eastside,” Corbella told CKNW’s Simi Sara on Friday.

On the same radio station Sunday, Dr. Patricia Daly, Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officer, said Corbella was “very naïve” about heroin availability and harm reduction.

“There wasn’t much that was factually correct in her column or in her comments, so it’s unfortunate,” she said.

“All the data on the effectiveness of InSite contradicts what was said,” Daly said, referring to respected publications such as New England Journal of Medicine. “We know that it actually helps people get into addiction treatment.”

Daly notes that the Fraser Valley — with no safe injection site — had about 80 overdose deaths versus about 60 in Metro Vancouver in 2009, the last year with full statistics.

But Corbella relied on overhearing a single conversation “several years ago” where some young people in Calgary claimed they were going to InSite in Vancouver to try heroin.

I’ll take Vancouver’s medical health officer and health research journals over a nosy Calgary columnist using unsubstantiated overheard gossip to draw sweeping conclusions about Vancouver and harm reduction.

Read more Tieleman at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman





Do you agree with Licia Corbella that actor Cory Monteith only died of a heroin and alcohol overdose because he visited Vancouver versus any other city?

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