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Tuesday, 2 October, 2007

Insite safe-injection clinic's licence extended

Health Canada this afternoon that Insite, the downtown Vancouver safe-injection clinic, will be granted an extension to its federal exemption to narcotics-control laws that permit it to stay in operation -- but only for six more months. The extension announced today will expire on June 30, 2008, meaning that the clinic's uncertain future continues to be unresolved, and that the same stressful waiting game will replay itself six months from now.

The extension was granted because Health Minister Tony Clement wants more "research on how supervised injection sites affect prevention, treatment and crime."

I wrote last month about the forthcoming federal anti-drug plan (which will this month, it seems) and Insite's status, which was accompanied by written by researchers from BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS, who have been some of the lead scientists studying Insite's effects.

At the time I wrote my article, the outlook for Insite looked grim. (In fact, even in , the outlook looked grim.) Dr Keith Martin, an MP from British Columbia, told me he spoke to Tony Clement and got the impression that the end was near for Insite.

Was Dr Martin wrong? It's not clear, based on today's two-sentence proclamation from Minister Clement's office. What is clear from the short extension and the reiteration of the need for more research (when a scientific consensus has already been established, essentially), is that the federal government is still unconvinced that the benefits of harm-reduction initiatives outweigh the risks.

*Update, Oct 2, 6pm: The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network released criticizing the government for its decision to extend Insite's exemption for just six months rather than indefinitely.

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