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Canadian MP Libby Davies--statement on Insite and NDP Harm Reduction Resolution

Federal NDP Passes Emergency Motion to Protect InSite, Safe Injection Site Dear Friends, The work and action taken at the grass roots level to bring the issue of InSite to national and international attention was remarkable. I really want to thank all of you who took the time to respond to our call for help. It made a huge difference and really demonstrates how, when we work together, it can pay off! There is more work to do to protect and expand harm reduction programs across Canada, and I won’t give up on it. Please find below, an article I wrote for Rabble.ca on September 7 (www.rabble.ca). I’m also pleased to report that a motion to protect InSite, and further expand similar harm reduction programs across the country, was overwhelmingly supported at the federal NDP policy convention in Quebec City this last weekend. Sincerely, Libby INSITE TAKES ON CONSERVATIVES September 7, 2006 Libby Davies, MP Vancouver East and NDP Spokesperson for Drug Policy Last week, in an uncharacteristic move, the Conservative government was forced to bow to public pressure and allow INSITE, North America's first safe injection facility for Intravenous Drug Users, to continue for another 18 months under a special exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is a huge victory, because the Conservative government has, from day one of the struggle to open a safe site for injecting, vociferously opposed such an idea. It clashes with their narrow views that the correct response to drug use is primarily law enforcement, ignoring harm reduction measures where drug users are treated with respect and dignity. INSITE has been open for three years, but it took six long years prior to that, to take what was a seemingly radical idea from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and turn it into a functioning, publicly-funded, peer-assisted, scientifically-evaluated operation. Located on the much maligned 100 block East Hastings Street, INSITE has been under a media microscope from the beginning and has been scrutinized, poked and batted about and described as everything from the worst evil, to a life-saving centre. This victory to keep INSITE open, at least for now, is worth taking a closer look at. There are some important markers for activists who have been frustrated by the lack of response and accountability of the Conservatives, on so many issues of concern, whether it is child-care funding, housing or safety. What forced them to pay attention this time and apparently change course and make a decision that is contrary to their political direction? During the early days of the last federal election, Stephen Harper blew into Vancouver and threatened a Conservative government would close down INSITE, scaring the pants off everyone. So what changed? The short answer, I believe, is the Conservatives were overwhelmed by a well-planned, well- executed, and multi-layered campaign, that made it politically impossible to just say no. This well-organized community campaign had tremendous impact and included an interactive website. That, in and of itself, set the momentum and direction for INSITE's survival. In my office, we had already written numerous letters, statements, press releases etc, but it was our call for emails and letters to support the community campaign and to write to the federal health Minister that generated the biggest response I have ever seen on any issue I have worked on. The response from many hundreds of people from across Canada was immediate and solid. I attribute this in part, to the growing media coverage that became national, and even international, as the World AIDS Conference, took place in Toronto in August. Certainly the media attention helped focus and direct people who were generally sympathetic to INSITE and wanted to act. But it's important to note that it was the community activists who set the media stage and kept it going with new developments, actions and new support every few days. Two other factors made a key difference: multi-party support, and academic support. For example, INSITE had the backing of three former Vancouver Mayors and the current Mayor, representing support from across the political spectrum. The ongoing scientific/academic comment and validation fuelled the case that INSITE is part of a bigger drug policy strategy that is working and helping people and local communities, were very important. So often, I encounter folks who understandably feel discouraged and hopeless about changing the political course to a progressive outcome in the face of neo-conservative politics. Yet when we take something on, define it, organize, and develop broad and multi-faceted actions, there can be clear victories. In the case of INSITE it ran the gamut from stopping traffic at busy Toronto intersections for a breathtaking minute (so well-organized through the community coalition group, INSITE For Community Safety), to publicizing academics and their papers and evaluations, to masses of emails and letters from ordinary people at all layers of society. But most importantly, it was drug users themselves — so often marginalized and demonized by society, who spoke out about their own lives and experience, and demanded our attention and support. There was a very strong underlying message that came through again and again. It is that, all lives matter. Human dignity matters — whether it's AIDS victims in Africa or poor drug users in the Downtown Eastside. This powerful message, spoken in so many ways, by so many different people, could not be countered by Conservative bafflegab and rhetoric. Now, there is one last piece to this story, for the bigger battle is yet to come. When after months of silence, the Conservatives finally put out their press release giving the reprieve for INSITE on September 1, only 11 days until the deadline, late on a Friday, on the eve of a long weekend, hoping no-one would notice (most of all them!), the biggest part of the story went largely ignored in media coverage. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief — but the Conservatives had a final message: INSITE is okay for now, but by the way, the Conservatives are going to re-write Canada's drug strategy. In his press release, the Health Minister promises more “studies,” more anti-harm reduction, more funds slated to punitive enforcement, and more regressive legislation. “The Minister also noted he will be working with his federal counterparts at Justice and Public Safety, along with the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, to accelerate the launch and implementation of a new National Drug Strategy (NDS), which will put greater emphasis on programs that reduce drug and alcohol abuse.” (September 1, 2006, Health Canada.) Interestingly, the media gave little attention and coverage to this part of the announcement, yet it is a clear signal that the Conservatives are gearing up for something bigger. In 2002, a special Parliamentary Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs I was on, supported the so-called 4 Pillar Approach: Harm Reduction, Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement, as a sensible drug policy for Canada, recognizing the need for a health-based strategy that moves from the fundamentally flawed law enforcement framework. These recommendations came after comprehensive hearings and extensive testimony from across Canada. Of course the Conservative members of the Committee were opposed to this approach, and the call in the report for the government of Canada to “...remove any federal regulatory or legislative barriers to the implementation of scientific trials and pilot projects, and assist and encourage the development of protocols to determine the effectiveness of safe injection facilities in reducing the social and health problems related to injection drug use.” So, they appear determined to undo years of research, by the Parliamentary Committee as well as by groups like the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users), BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and endless international research that supports INSITE, harm reduction, and the comprehensive strategy it is part of. All in all, a bigger battle is looming, and it will come soon. Clearly the Conservatives think they have bought themselves some time to undo progressive drug policy reform work. But I am optimistic. The community is well organized on this one, indeed we are already moving far ahead, as groups like Creative Resistance (www.creativeresistance.net), challenge drug prohibition laws and policy as the cause of much pain and misery. There are always lessons and tactics to be learned as we move forward. The Conservatives may think they have this one in the bag but I don't think so. When we organize and get creative, we have a lot of power!
Localização: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Washington Office on Latin America Book Launch Reception

The Washington Office on Latin America is pleased to invite you to a reception to celebrate the publication of Washington Office on Latin America: Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice by Coletta A. Youngers Tuesday, September 19, 2006 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm WOLA’s office 1630 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 200 Washington, DC 20009 You have been an important part of our history. WOLA is celebrating its 30 years of history with friends, staff and board members with the launch of our most recent publication Washington Office on Latin America: Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice. We would like to share this special evening with you. Come celebrate WOLA’s history and mingle with our current staff and board to discuss WOLA’s present and to discover WOLA’s future. Please RSVP by Monday, September 18th to Ana Paula Duarte: [email protected]
Data: 
Tue, 09/19/2006 - 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Localização: 
1630 Connecticut St. NW Suite 200
Washington, DC
United States

My Border Blues

I really dislike crossing international borders. I've been doing a lot of it lately in the past few years, particularly since my partner and I got a summer place outside Nelson, BC. Even when I was spending a few weeks or months in Nelson, I was often off to the US—for a meth conference in Salt Lake, the NORML annual conference in San Francisco, to score cheap cigarettes on the Indian reservation in Washington state—or crossing into the US to get to the nearest big time airport to fly off to more exotic locales. And I'm tired of it, particularly along the US-Canadian border. The US border guards have a worldwide reputation for being hard asses, but I find that to be true only about half the time. The Canadians, on the other hand, have a reputation for politeness, but they are also an intensely bureaucratic nation, and they sometimes subject visitors to relentless questioning and truly bizarre questions: "Do you have a copy of the title to your home with you?" One wants to reply: "Ah, gee, I must have left it in my other jacket." I don't like dealing with these border cops because I like my freedom and I like my freedom to travel, and when I arrive at the border, I suddenly enter a "no rights" zone. Not only can I be stopped from crossing that invisible line, but I also get to be interrogated, searched, and possibly probed in the bargain. And have my belongings rummaged through, my notebooks read, my vehicle turned apart. We have this international system where money flows across the globe at the push of a button, massive amounts of commodities (licit and illicit) flow across borders through the channels of commerce, and jobs fly to wherever offers the lowest wage. Why can't we just flow like everything else? I guess I don't see any way of getting around borders short of the dreaded UN global government, but I'm starting to think North America should emulate Europe, where the European Union allows free movement among its member countries. Here's a link to the Wikipedia pages on North American Union, not because I think Wikipedia is the holy scripture on contentious topics, but because I think it shows the nature of some of the debate around the whole notion. I'm interested in borders as a drug policy issue, but also as a human rights issue, and I feel that very personally each time I have to deal with these uniformed agents of various national governments. I guess I feel especially cranky (if not crankish) about the issue today because I just had to recross the border back into the United States from Canada, then come back into Canada with certain papers they had never wanted before. That made it my second cross-border trip to deal with this particular issue, a grand total of four border crossings on Friday and Monday. Enough with those borders!
Localização: 
United States

Britain's First Needle Exchange Vending Machine Planned for North Wales Resort Town

Localização: 
Colwyn Bay, CWY
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
Daily Post
URL: 
http://icnorthwales.icnetwork.co.uk/news/regionalnews/tm_objectid=17722733%26method=full%26siteid=50142%26headline=vending%2dmachine%2dto%2dsell%2ddrug%2dneedles-name_page.html#story_continue

CWA Joins Fight to Legalize Cannabis (Australia)

Localização: 
Australia
Publication/Source: 
The Age
URL: 
http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/CWA-joins-fight-to-legalise-cannabis/2006/09/11/1157826868003.html

Crossing the Border

I'm off to Spokane, Washington, in a few minutes, which means I will be crossing the US-Canadian border at one of the remote ports of entry above Spokane. I'm coming from BC Bud country, which means the border crossing is always, um, interesting. You never know whether they are going to wave you through in a matter of a few seconds, or tear your vehicle apart, make you empty your pockets, and maybe even do a strip search. It always makes me feel so wanted by my homeland. It helps if you have a reasonable story. It seems like there's nothing to set the border guards off like a little uncertainty or nervousness. Up here, they are mainly looking for pot (and in the other direction, the Canadians are looking for cash, cocaine, and guns). The astounding thing is that they would think anyone would go through the ports of entry with a load of weed, when all you have to do is look around at the wild, pine forest-covered mountains that make up the border around here. There are remote logging roads that bisect the border, there are smuggling trails left over from alcohol Prohibition, there are miles of trackless wilderness where nobody goes except young men with backpacks full of weed who hike, bike, ski, or ride horses to the other side where those American dollars are waiting. Ah, yet another border crossing. Always a thrill.
Localização: 
United States

South Asia: India Rebels Threaten to Kill Drug Traffickers, Tobacco Dealers

A trio of armed separatist groups in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur are threatening to kill drug traffickers and tobacco dealers and shoot liquor sellers in the leg, the Indo-Asian News Service reported Thursday. The threat came in a joint statement from the outlawed United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), and the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK).

According to the statement, the sale and use of heroin, opium, something called "Spasmo Provyvon tablets," and tobacco products will be banned effective September 15. There is an exception for home-brewed liquor used for religious purposes.

"Drug traffickers would face capital punishment without any trial and anyone found guilty of selling liquor would get a bullet in the leg," the rebel statement warned. "Drug abuse has only compounded the problem of HIV/AIDS but also taken a heavy toll on the mental and physical health of the youths," the statement said.

The state of Manipur -- population 2.4 million -- borders Myanmar (Burma) and along with much of India's northeast, which abuts Southeast Asia's opium-producing "golden triangle," has a serious injection heroin problem, the news agency reported. Up to 100,000 intravenous drugs users live in Manipur, many of them believed to be HIV positive.

The three separatist groups want independent homelands for the majority Metei community who inhabit the central valley of Manipur, but who are engaged in endemic conflict with their highland neighbors the Naga. They are but three of at least 19 rebel groups in the state seeking everything from greater autonomy from the central government to outright secession. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting in the past two decades, the news agency said.

While this statement marks the first formal campaign against drug traffickers by the rebel groups, at least a dozen have already been killed in Manipur and more have been shot in the legs for "failing to reform." The moralistic rebels are big on that. They also shot 10 people in the leg last year for helping students cheat on college exams.

Opportunities and Challenges for Drug Control Policy in Bolivia

The Washington Office on Latin America is pleased to invite you to a seminar: Opportunities and Challenges for Drug Control Policy in Bolivia with Felipe Cáceres, Vice Minister of Social Defense Tuesday, September 12, 2006 12 pm to 1:30 pm The Root Room Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington, DC 20036 A former mayor from Bolivia’s Chapare region, Felipe Cáceres is responsible for implementing Bolivian government drug control policy. The Morales government is controlling coca production through voluntary crop reductions that seek to avoid conflict and violence as well as the re-planting that has undermined past eradication efforts. At the same time, the government has also stepped up interdiction of illicit drugs at all stages of production. Cáceres will discuss international cooperation, the new government’s drug control strategy, the results obtained to date, and prospects for the future. The presentation will be in Spanish with simultaneous interpretation into English. Light food and beverages will be served. Please RSVP by Monday, September 11th to Jessica Eby [email protected].
Data: 
Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:00pm - 10:30pm
Localização: 
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Feature: Afghan Opium Crop Hits Record as Violence Increases

Things are not going well in Afghanistan. In a stunning admission that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent trying to eradicate the country's opium crop had accomplished little, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced Saturday that this year's Afghan opium crop is up a "staggering" 60% over last year and will yield a record 6,100 tons this year, leading to a global surplus in black market heroin.

Opium is the backbone of the Afghan economy, accounting for somewhere between 35% and 50% of gross national product, and Afghan opium is the backbone of the global traffic in narcotics, now accounting for 92% of total illicit global production, according to UNODC.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/eradicationteam.jpg
opium eradication team (photo from the Senlis Council report, photo library section)
Meanwhile, US soldiers and NATO forces, who took over operations in the restive south of the country earlier this year, are being killed at a record pace as Taliban and Al Qaeda rebels reinvigorated by profits from the opium trade are taking the battle to the foreigners and the government they prop up. And in a reflection of the increased NATO role, for the first time, NATO casualties are keeping pace with American casualties. In what is turning into the bloodiest year so far for Afghanistan's occupiers, 73 NATO troops and 74 American soldiers have been killed so far. Last year, the second bloodiest since the US invasion nearly five years ago, 99 US and 31 NATO troops were killed in fighting.

"The news is very bad. On the opium front today in some of the provinces of Afghanistan, we face a state of emergency," UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa told a Kabul news conference after presenting results of its crop survey to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "In the southern provinces, the situation is out of control."

In southern Helmand province, now a hotbed of Taliban activity, cultivation rose by a whopping 162% and accounts for 42% of total Afghan opium cultivation, the UNODC said. Costa told the Kabul news conference that NATO must step up its role in fighting the opium trade, especially in the south, where it is helping to fuel the Taliban insurgency.

"We need much stronger, forceful measures to improve security or otherwise I'm afraid we are going to face a dramatic situation of failed regions, districts and even perhaps even provinces in the near future," Costa said.

But while NATO commanders late this week called urgently for more troops on the ground in the south, they have little interest in fighting the drug war. NATO's official position is that its mandate is for stability and peace-keeping, not counternarcotics.

Still, there is pressure from the Americans and the British to try to wage both the war on terror and the war on drugs simultaneously. The top American anti-drug official in Afghanistan, Doug Wankel, told the press conference the need was urgent. "This country could be taken down by this whole drugs problem," he told reporters. "We have seen what can come from Afghanistan, if you go back to 9/11. Obviously the US does not want to see that again."

But analysts consulted by Drug War Chronicle warned that attempting to quash the opium economy and fight the Taliban at the same time is a recipe for disaster. "Paradoxically, the more they go after opium production, the more they strengthen the bond between the Taliban and the population and the traffickers," said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a research fellow at the Brookings Institution and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government Affairs. "It is a difficult conundrum. There can be no fundamental progress on either the narcotics problem or stabilization in general unless we deal with the insurgency," she told the Chronicle.

"The Taliban have now once again become integrated into production in the south," Felbab-Brown explained. "After 2001, they were pretty much forced out of the drug trade because they were fleeing and because the US and coalition forces were not going after drug trafficking. But now, the traffickers need someone to protect them, to scare off the eradication teams and the state presence, and the Taliban is providing this protection. It is also exploiting the eradication effort," the expert on illicit drugs and military conflict said. "They are handing out leaflets saying things like 'We are the Taliban. Isn't it awful that Karzai under the pressure of the foreign infidels is trying to destroy our crops. Here's our cell phone number. Give us a call.' So now, the Taliban is not only profiting financially, it is also gaining the allegiance of the population by providing protection."

"Things are a bit out of control because so many things happening in Iraq and the Middle East keep the superpowers' eyes off of Afghanistan, so the intruders have more opportunities to accelerate their destruction and illegal activities," said Raheem Yaseer, assistant director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. "At the same time, the coalition and the Karzai government are too busy fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda to concentrate on eradication," he told the Chronicle.

"The Taliban is moving into the areas where there is drug cultivation, and they receive support from farmers who have had their crops destroyed or threatened," Yaseer continued. "Thus, the traffickers and growers have a bit more freedom than usual. That's why business is booming for the drug dealers. There are too many fronts to deal with, and eradication is just one front."

Solutions are hard to come by. "Nobody knows what the answer is," Yaseer conceded. "Out of those billions of dollars they are spending, they need to use some to compensate farmers and create other jobs and projects. People in the provinces are unemployed and hungry, and the terrorists offer them money to join them. People turn to the Taliban and the terrorists and the drug dealers because that's where the money is. The government and the coalition cannot compete with the money drug dealers offer. It doesn't help that there is such nepotism and involvement of high level officials in the trade. That only makes it all the more difficult to enforce the drug laws. Many government officials are supporting the trade, not fighting it."

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
"There is no doubt lots of government officials are complicit in the trade, but focusing on individuals is a mistake," noted Felbab-Brown. "This isn't about individuals, but about deep structural factors like the lack of stability, security, and economic development. Whoever is in power, whether honest or corrupt, will have to contend with these issues. The honest ones will confront the fact that there is nothing but poppy-growing for much of the population. The only way they can do eradication now is at gunpoint, and that is not the way to carry out a legitimate, widely-embraced policy. Forced eradication generates instability and opposition from the people, and ambitious politicians in the south will link up with the Taliban."

For Felbab-Brown, it comes down to doing counterinsurgency right. "It is critical to increase the number of forces, to increase the troop presence and the delivery of aid," she said. "It's difficult to deliver aid during an active insurgency, but it is vital. But we also need patience, especially on the narcotics issue. The big pressure for premature eradication coming from Washington and international organizations needs to be resisted. We need more money, more troops, more development. Is this international community willing to provide these resources?"

Being patient with the opium economy is getting closer to the correct approach, said Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign affairs and drug policy analyst with the libertarian leaning Cato Institute. "The only solution is one that no one in any position of influence in Washington or the NATO capitals will consider -- drug legalization," he told Drug War Chronicle. "That would take the black market profits out of the drug trade. It is the ultimate solution. If they won't consider legalization, the very least they can do is look the other way with regard to the drug trade. That worked in Peru in the 1980s, when the Peruvian generals figured out that leaving the coca crop alone dried up support for the Shining Path. Something similar needs to occur in Afghanistan, whether they admit it or not. If they are serious about preventing a further rebound of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, they need to lay off the drug war."

Trying to wage both the war on terror and the war on drugs undermines US policy in the country, Carpenter argued. "There is a fundamental inconsistency in the US nation-building strategy in Afghanistan. The primary goal remains to undermine the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but the problem is if they go after the drug trade, they alienate a major portion of the population and strengthen support for the Taliban. Even trying to prosecute the war on drugs there undermines the primary US goal in Afghanistan."

One European defense and development group, the Senlis Council, has proposed for nearly a year now that the Afghan opium crop be licensed, legalized, and diverted to the legitimate medicinal market. Senlis was harshly critical of Western policy this week.

"Huge amounts of money have been spent on large and costly military operations, but after five years southern Afghanistan is once more a battlefield for the control of the country," said Senlis executive director Emmanuel Reinert as he announced the publication of a new report on the rebirth of the Taliban. "At the same time Afghans are starving. The US has lost control in Afghanistan and has in many ways undercut the new democracy in Afghanistan. I think we can call that a failure, and one with dire consequences which should concern us all. The US policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe-haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy."

But the Senlis licensing proposal is getting little respect or traction and is unlikely to prevail, said Yaseer. "I don't think the Senlis Council proposal will get very far," said Yaseer. "There is all kinds of opposition to any legalization. The religious groups will not support it, the legislators will not support it. There are also serious questions about whether it would just open up more venues for growing and trafficking."

Questions, questions. There are lots of questions in Afghanistan, but few good answers.

Attention Night Owls: Your Editor Will Be on the Radio Sunday Night

Chronicle editor Phil Smith (that's me) will be the guest on Kootenay Co-op Radio's "Fane of the Cosmos" program Sunday night. Based in Nelson, BC, Kootenay Co-op Radio is the independent voice of the Kootenay counterculture. "Fane of the Cosmos" is hosted by local attorney Dustin Cantwell, who is perhaps better known as one of the owners of the Holy Smoke Culture Shop in Nelson, which was raided over alleged marijuana sales earlier this summer. Cantwell will interview me about Afghanistan and the latest atrocities from the American war on drugs (the Canadians really love that stuff), while I will interview Cantwell about the latest on the Holy Smoke situation. The program airs at 10pm Pacific time, 1am on the East Coast and is available over the internet.
Localização: 
Nelson, BC
Canada

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