Vancouver’s supervised injection site is a health-care matter and its operation should be under provincial, not federal, jurisdiction, a lawyer said yesterday.

Two Vancouver drug addicts are suing the federal government to keep InSite open.
The trial began yesterday in Vancouver.

InSite, which allows injection drug users to shoot illegal drugs under the watch of a nurse, has been operating since 2003 under an exemption to the federal Narcotics Control Act.


Its exemption, which has been extended twice, expires at the end of June.

Monique Pongracic-Speier, lawyer for the Portland Hotel Society, which operates InSite in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, said the site is about “saving lives and improving health,” not the legalization of drugs.

Under the Charter, she added, addicts have the right to life and the security of the person.

As the matter is health care, she argued, it should be under provincial authority, not federal.

However, John Hunter, a lawyer for the Canadian government, questioned the assertion that self-injection of illegal drugs qualifies as health treatment.

“It’s not a medical use of these drugs,” Hunter said. “It’s a personal use of these drugs.”

Earlier in the day, Hunter argued the case should be dealt with as a full trial and not a 10-day summary trial, which allows affidavits instead of testimony.

Justice Ian Pitfield adjourned Hunter’s motion until after the summary trial.

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