Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Insite Goes to the Supreme Court

The Federal government has announced that it is seeking leave to appeal the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal that let the Insite safe injection site stay open. This is actually not that surprising a decision on the part of the Federal government since the rationale of the case strikes at the heart of substantial chunk of the body of federal law governing psycho-active drugs and their management. The Court of Appeal in a 2-1 decision held that the Federal government was out of bounds in regulating Insite because it crossed the line into provincial jurisdiction over health. The Supreme Court of Canada is there to hear issues of national importance and this qualifies on almost any understanding of that term.

What is more interesting is the inevitable cross-appeal that will come on the Charter issue that was raised in this case, that was effectively left unresolved in a 1-1-0 split between the three judges. This attack squarely raises the question "can you effectively criminalize addiction if it is in fact an illness rather than a moral failure?" From a certain perspective, the criminalization of drug use in various ways is very much akin to the idea of criminalizing fast food to fight obesity. This challenge will put the Supreme Court of Canada in a tight spot given some of its rulings over the last decade.

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1 comment:

David P. Janes said...

Ah well then, just tax drugs like fast food (like NYC is trying to do) and go after the addicts as tax evaders? I believe I read that "only whiners" could disagree with this!

There's probably a more serious comment to be made here about the intersection of science, post-normal science, the ability to officially define and redefine words (such as disease) and politics.