3 min

Crack pipe program defended

Drug strategy flawed

Police must stop confiscating crack pipes that have been issued by the city, Ottawa’s medical officer of health said forcefully Jan 19.

Dr David Salisbury accused the police chief of interfering in his harm-reduction program by encouraging officers to confiscate the pipes. Sharing crack pipes can spread HIV and Hep C. Since the city’s crack pipe distribution program started in 2005, Ottawa’s HIV infection rate has fallen from 39 a year to 12.

Last year police chief Vince Bevan opposed the program, saying it encouraged drug use. Newly elected mayor Larry O’Brien pledged during the recent election to stop the program and recently said he would do so through this year’s budgeting process. Local AIDS groups are preparing for a fight to save the crack pipe and needle exchange programs.


It was the gay community’s response to AIDS that led the way in proving that a harm reduction approach is the best way to deal with serious health issues. But in Canada, many police forces, churches and rightwing politicians lobby to stop a health-based approach being applied to prostitution and drug use.

Instead, they want stepped-up law enforcement and a continuation of the “Say No to Drugs/Prostitution” approach that has failed in North America while Europeans shift to harm reductions and enjoy greater success.

A new study out of Vancouver, published in the Jan 15 issue HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review, chides the federal government for its emphasis on law-enforcement. The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS study found that 73 percent of the federal drug strategy’s annual $245 million budget is spent on law enforcement — the single largest portion — and has no demonstrated impact on curbing use of drugs. In contrast, 3 percent is spent on addiction prevention and harm reduction, 7 percent on research and 14 percent on treatment.

“The federal government continues to invest heavily in policies and practices that have repeatedly been shown in the scientific literature to be ineffective or harmful,” conclude the authors. The report is not expected to change the Harper government’s increased commitment to law enforcement.


Lesbian MP Libby Davies says the Vancouver trial of Robert Pickton for killing women who worked the streets in Davies downtown riding shows the need for prostitution law reform.

“The disappearance of more that 60 women from the Downtown Eastside and hundreds more from across the country also raises deeply disturbing questions about Canada’s justice system and how it failed,” she says in a Jan 22 media release. “Despite the recent media attention to Vancouver’s missing women, no significant changes have been made, at any level of government, to protect sex workers, who remain at risk.

“I believe the federal government must come to terms with the contradictions and impossibility of the status quo, and engage in a process of law reform that will lead to the decriminalization of laws pertaining to prostitution and focus criminal sanctions on harmful situations.

“It is also critical for all levels of government to immediately improve the safety of sex workers and assist them to exit the sex trade if they are not there by choice, by providing significant resources for poverty alleviation and income support, education and training, and treatment for addictions.”

Davies has also called for the bawdyhouse laws to be changed to ensure that gay bathhouses are protected from police raids.


Deputy Chief Larry Hill has bowed out of the race for a new police chief and announced he will retire within six months.

A longtime champion of community policing, Hill was favoured by progressives to replace outgoing chief Vince Bevan. The day before Hill’s retirement announcement, 37-year RCMP veteran Henry Jensen was appointed chair of the Ottawa police services board and a member of the hiring committee for the next chief.

Hill impressed members of numerous local minority communities with his dedication to outreach. A regular fixture at events throughout the city, he was known as a particular champion of respect for queer, Muslim and Aboriginal communities and citizens.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was frankly admitting in 2003 that he believed racial profiling occurs in Ottawa, a statement that provoked outrage from many colleagues and the police union.


Emily Troy, Community Developer from Family Services Ottawa, reads an Around the Rainbow Toolkit to Sadie. The social inclusion project was launched Jan 24 to respond to the needs of rainbow families with children aged 0-6. Over the next year, the project hopes to provide numerous training seminars for educators, community art events, and increase the awareness of the needs of rainbow families in the Ottawa region.