In a quiet plea and peaceful vigil, Leah Martin and Joey Only from Vancouver stood outside Stephen Harper’s Calgary constituency office yesterday afternoon, protesting his plan to close Insite, the controversial safe-injection site in Vancouver.
Mark Townsend, executive director of the Portland Hotel Society, which operates the Vancouver site, flew to Calgary for the event and to hand-deliver letters both from the public and B.C.’s health minister petitioning Harper to keep the centre open.
“It isn’t about politics, it’s about public health,” he said. With a million injections done on site since it opened in 2003, Townsend said if it closes, addicts will be right back in parks and alleys sharing infected needles.
With a decision to be made by the end of June, Martin and Only are raising awareness by driving across Canada to Ottawa and will lodge 1,000 wooden crosses into Parliament Hill representing those who have overdosed at the centre but have not died because a nurse was readily available.
“If it was as simple as detox and treatment, we wouldn’t be here,” Townsend said, adding that those who go to the site are 33 per cent more likely to seek treatment.