THE DUEL: Abbotsford misses mark in passing controversial bylaw 0
In The Duel, 24 hours columnists David Eby and Kathryn Marshall battle over the issues of the day. Who's the winner this week? Fire us an email at email@example.com.
THIS WEEK'S TOPIC - Harm reduction: Does it really make a positive impact?
Abbotsford is unique in B.C. for having a bylaw that supposedly makes harm reduction facilities like needle exchanges, safe injection sites and medical cannabis dispensaries illegal.
I say "supposedly" illegal, because Abbotsford city staff, and most people versed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, likely know that a bylaw that refuses basic medical services to people with addictions is unconstitutional.
Even though the city lacks the legal authority to enforce their bylaw, they've passed it. So sue us, is the city's message to its most marginalized residents - move to Vancouver, or share needles and get sick, your choice.
Sharing needles or moving are the only two options for people with addictions in Abbotsford, as the city also lacks adequate detox and drug treatment facilities. To its credit, at least their city council is pushing for more detox.
Despite Mayor Bruce Banman's notional support for detox, he has a unique vision about what should happen to people with addictions in Abbotsford while they wait for drug treatment services to exist. A view more in line with Texan politics than British Columbia's realities.
"Lock 'em up," he's been quoted as saying. He actively compares people with addictions to pedophiles. Both, in his opinion, are equally criminals, equally culpable.
His remarkable attitude about drug addiction, which has been widely recognized as a health issue, not a criminal "choice," has led Abbotsford to claim B.C.'s third-highest Hep C infection rate. An infection rate far more in line with impoverished, remote communities than wealthy Lower Mainland suburbs.
When the mayor heard that Abbotsford had taken the bronze medal in Hepatitis C infections, his response was to question the statistics of the Fraser Health Authority's epidemiologists who had provided the figures. "You know these people travel around. Maybe they're from my city, maybe they're not."
This is a health policy argument equivalent to: I'm like rubber, you're like glue.
Advocates and people with addictions are begging Abbotsford for, at the very least, access to clean, non-Hep-C-transmitting needles. Fraser Health is also begging them to change their ways.
Even if Abbotsford hates people with addictions, their actions are costing lives, as well as hundreds of thousands of precious health care dollars for each new Hep C infection their bylaw and obfuscation facilitates. Abbotsford is not an island, and wishful thinking is not a health policy. The bylaw has got to go.