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(Mexico City) Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees – who are representing CUPE at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City this week – were disappointed and embarrassed by Health Minister Tony Clement’s comments at the conference denouncing Insite, Vancouver’s internationally-lauded safe injection site.

“This is the first time I am embarrassed to be a Canadian abroad,” said Gerry Lavallee, co-chair of CUPE’s National Pink Triangle Committee. “I am ashamed that our Canadian Minister of Health, Tony Clement, decided that on this day, on this world stage, he was going to open his mouth and firmly stick both feet into it.”

“When Minister Clement says ‘we believe safe injection sites are a form of harm addition’, who is he speaking for?” asked Lavallee. “The ‘we’ he speaks of does not include Canadian AIDS Activists or health care workers.”

Clement explained in an interview in Mexico City that “it’s not my job to kowtow to orthodoxy.”

 “Instead, Clement is thinking outside the box by favouring social conservatism over hard scientific evidence that says the Insite model prevents overdoses and the spread of HIV while keeping healthcare and law-enforcement budgets down,” observed Procyk.

Safe injection sites are also strongly endorsed by the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) as an effective harm-reduction measure. In a guide released earlier this week, the WHO identified safe injection sites like Insite as “priority interventions” to help slow the spread of HIV.

Roger Procyk, a community health care worker and member of CUPE’s National Aboriginal Council echoed Lavallee’s support of Insite, saying “Though the location is in Vancouver, the people who need and use its services are from all across Canada; their families and friends are glad it is there as a beacon of hope and support.”


For more information: Allison Gifford, CUPE Communications – 613-237-1590 ext. 268