VANCOUVER – More than 150 people rallied on Wednesday in support of Insite, North America’s only supervised injection site. The crowd included members of CUPE 1004 and CUPE 15, community residents, patients, and the general public who sent a message to Stephen Harper that “Insite saves lives.”
The impromptu rally was called to protest the prime minister’s call for a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on who has jurisdiction over Insite – the provincial or federal government. The Harper Conservatives have been trying to close the doors on this community health initiative for four years. Both the initial BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeals hearings, which ruled in favour of Insite, confirmed that the federal government did not have the jurisdiction.
“Neighbourhood residents, workers who provide community health services, and the provincial government all support Insite,” says CUPE National President Paul Moist. “It’s time for the prime minister to put personal ideology aside and listen to the hard scientific evidence that supports the need for a service like Insite in this community.”
Protesters encircled the Chinese Cultural Centre, hoping to talk with Harper, who was expected there. The crowd stood their ground for over two hours despite the rain, stopping the PM from attending a pre-Olympic event. Activists say they will use whatever opportunity they can to send the federal government a message that Insite saves lives, and that this health service is crucial to the Downtown Eastside community.
CUPE represents 170 members who provide services to the PHS Community Services in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside at Insite (Vancouver’s supervised injection site), Onsite (a treatment centre), and various hotels that house the hard to house.