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Langley missing out on needle education: councillor

By Patrick Colvin

FOTOLIA

FOTOLIA

Langley city council voted down a motion Sept. 14 to have staff report back on advice and recommendations on the viability of a needle exchange program — leaving one councillor concerned about their lack of understanding regarding harm-reduction practices.

“Many of these people, not only on council but on staff, have no concept whatsoever of the term harm reduction, so that’s why I served that notice of motion,” said Coun. Dave Hall.

“It was a request for education, so if you look at the details of the motion, it wasn’t advocating a needle exchange, it wasn’t advocating needle depositories, it was simply asking staff to go and look at what other communities are doing and come back to council and basically educate them.”

Hall said needles have been found in schoolyards and other “hot spots” around Langley, like private properties with absentee owners.

According to Coun. Gayle Martin, city staff had already been looking into needle depositories unbeknownst to city council, so they were given the go-ahead to report back to council on that.

But the idea of researching needle exchange programs was rejected.

“The majority of council certainly does not want a needle exchange in our city,” she said.

UBC professor of medicine Thomas Kerr said council members are living “in the stone age.”

“Needle exchange is the single-most effective way of preventing HIV infection and reversing an existing epidemic, it’s so effective that the World Health Organization and the United Nations joint program on HIV/AIDS has issued a technical guide that suggest that needle exchange is actually an essential service,” said Kerr. “So quite frankly these types of political discussion about should we have a needle exchange, as a scientist, I find them embarrassing.”

“For some reason we think that in the case of drug users and drug addiction that we can sit here and pick and choose what’s right based on our values and our social opinions, and I think quite frankly that’s completely unethical and a violation of human rights, people should have access to the best available medical treatments.”

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