December 12, 2016 - CASW Commends Federal Government’s Leadership on Harm Reduction

Ottawa, ON – December 12, 2016 – Against evidence based research and best practices, in 2015 the Harper government chose to place lives at risk with the passing Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act. Bill C-2 unnecessarily made the opening of new safe injection sites a labour-intensive and expensive process, arguably directly contributing to the current crisis affecting people living with opioid addiction.

The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) today applauds the Liberal government for adhering to evidence with the introduction of Bill C-37, new legislation that appears to confirm the importance of harm reduction and will facilitate the opening of new safe injection sites through a less onerous application process.

“Harm reduction policies such as safe injection sites are proven strategy: they save lives, a fact that the previous government chose to ignore,” stated CASW President Jan Christianson-Wood. “CASW applauds Minster Philpott’s announcement, but it came too late for the over 600 Canadians who died this year as a result of the opioid crisis in British Columbia alone.”

While safe injection sites will certainly help in the battle against overdose deaths, there are myriad other benefits as well. “Programs like these don’t just help avoid overdoses, they help limit the spread of certain diseases, and, most importantly – they help people with substance use issues feel empowered, connected to community, and often lead them to make positive change in their lives,” added Christianson-Wood.

CASW is also supportive of placing the responsibility of federal drug policy under the purview of the Minister of Health. While the announced changes to Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will remove some of the barriers that prevented organizations from opening safe injection sites, the Federal Government will still need to be held accountable to the timely review of applications for exemption, and to ensure that this new strategy has the appropriate funding behind it to fulfill its important purpose.

“A particularly vulnerable population of Canadians and their communities are in crisis," concluded Christianson-Wood, “we support acting swiftly to support the health and well-being of all Canadians.”


For more information contact:
Fred Phelps, MSW, RSW
Executive Director