Position Statements

UPHN Position Statement April 2011


  • Harm reduction was previously included as one of the four pillars in Canada’s national strategy on illicit drugs and harm reduction is also endorsed by the World Health Organization as a component of any comprehensive strategy on illicit drugs;
  • Public Health experts and leaders from a wide spectrum of disciplines including Nobel Laureates and former Chiefs of Police, have now coalesced in support of the Vienna Declaration calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies;
  • The City of Vancouver, with the collaboration and support of the Government of Canada, established a health care facility (InSite, September, 2003) where drug users could consume drugs in a supervised environment so that risks from communicable disease and overdose could be avoided, reduced and managed;
  • Peer reviewed research studies and the National Expert Advisory Commitee examining InSite have consistently concluded that the facility achieves its objectives by reducing harm and health risks associated with drug use to both users and the surrounding community, while causing no evident additional harm;
  • The Government of Canada, (in 2006) refused to grant InSite a full renewal and placed a moratorium on additional supervised injection facilities. Subsequently, without support from or consultation with the health community, the government eliminated harm reduction as a pillar of Canada’s National Drug Strategy;
  • The provision of medical supervision of illicit drug consumption and the resulting prevention of disease transmission and drug overdose is a health care service and harm reduction strategy a tenet of Public Health;

Given these factors, the Urban Public Health Network, representing the medical officers of health for the 19 largest public health departments in Canada, resolves as follows:

  • To call on the Government of Canada to reinstate harm reduction as a pillar of Canada’s strategy on illicit drugs;
  • To call on the Government of Canada to cease the appeal of the InSite case to the Supreme Court of Canada;
  • To urge the Government of Canada to commit to evidence informed policy with respect to supervised drug injection;
  • To urge health authorities across Canada, politicians and citizens to endorse the provisions of the Vienna declaration, and to adopt harm redution efforts as part of their overall strategies to combat illicit drugs.