Last year the HCLU’s video advocacy group travelled to Vancouver, to make a film about Insite, the only legally-operating injecting facility in North America. When we arrived at Hastings Street, in Vancouver's downtown Eastside, where Insite is located, we were taken aback by the magnitude of the street drug scene we found there. Hundreds of marginalised people live on the streets – they are virtually homeless, because I would not call those crowded, stuffy buldings, where they can get a cheap bed and breakfast, 'home' . A lot of them come from other parts of Canada, where the climate is colder and there are no services like Insite, or all the other health and social services which the Portland Hotel Society, a non-profit organization, provides to drug users in Vancouver.
In those few days we spent in downtown Eastside, we realized that Insite is very different from the dark picture the Canadian government tries to paint of it – and so much more than just an injecting site. It connects people to other services, such as shelter, food, detoxification, rehabilitation, financial literacy and sports facilities. Filming people coming in and out of Insite and Onsite (the detox/shelter service on the top floors) - seeing the enthusiasm and spirit of the community, the commitment of the staff members, the struggle for survival on the street - told us so much more than reading the research data proving Insite’s efficency in reducing HIV infections and overdose deaths. This is a place where clients are reminded that they are not merely clients, but people with dignity. We hope our video will help you appreciate all these features of Insite.
The Supreme Court’s decision, instructing the federal government to use their existing legislation to issue a permit to Insite, is a historic victory, not only for evidence-based drug policies, but for the communities of people who use drugs. It gives inspiration and hope for all of us.
Posted by Peter Sarosi and István Gábor Takács