Thanks to physician/author Vincent Lam for tweeting the link to this January 29 report in CMAJ: Canada opposes harm reduction policies for drug users. Excerpt:
Four drug policy groups monitoring international negotiations underway on reforms to United Nations drug control policies say Canada has joined ranks with China, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Russia in aggressively opposing European endorsements of health policies aimed at reducing harms, such as HIV transmission, among drug users.
Canada also opposes the participation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in future UN drug policymaking sessions, observers report from the Vienna negotiations.
Those negotiations will culminate in a draft statement in March, outlining a new set of UN principles that will serve to guide talks by world leaders at the UN General Assembly in 2016. A new global drug control regime will be adopted to replace the 2009 framework at the Assembly. The 2009 statement did not endorse harm reduction, but promoted "the war on drugs" polices favoured by US negotiators at the time. European negotiators are pressing to have much stronger emphasis placed on harm reduction in the new statement.
At the latest negotiation session on Jan. 14, "Canada once again led the charge" against a UN endorsement for "risk and harm mitigation and reduction measures" according to the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a UK-based group at the negotiations. IDPC staff who spoke to CMAJ asked not to be named due to concerns they could be barred from observing future negotiations. In a blog report posted after the session, one IDPC observer stated that Canada was "very vocal throughout" the session and opposed any references to the term, "harm reduction."
In what IDPC staff describe as a "fascinating standoff," the European Union, alongside Norway and Switzerland, "have remained adamant that they would not accept any compromise on this language." Negotiators for the USA have expressed support for specific interventions such as needle and syringe programs, the IDPC reports, "but not for the term harm reduction."
Rick Lines, executive director at Harm Reduction International, a UK based group that works with the IDPC, says "To have a federal government get up at international forums and oppose programs that exist at home seems cruel and hypocritical." Fines, who once worked on harm reduction in Canadian prisons, added that "when you oppose harm reduction you inevitably wind up on the same side as Iran, China and Russia."
Beatrice Fenelon, a spokesperson for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, says "the Government of Canada believes that the best way to address the public health consequences of injection drug-use is to prevent people from using illicit drugs in the first place." She refused to elaborate.
"As negotiations of the ministerial statement for the high-level segment of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs are ongoing," she explained, "Canada is not in a position to discuss negotiating positions."
Since 2006, roughly 35% of Canadians have elected and re-elected a government that opposes everything the country stood for after World War II. the majority, divided among Liberals, New Democrats, and separatist Quebecers, have had to watch a gang of well-tailored suburban thugs dismantle their nation.