Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Solving Ottawa's drug problem...

...once and for all.

It really isn't very hard, just nobody has the guts to say what they think.

This time, another plea from Ottawa Chief Medical Officer of Health, David Salisbury, is being shot down by anti-drug dogmatists, as reported in this Citizen article.

They say that it is useless to distribute needles to drug addicts without a treatment program in place to get them off their addictions. Since that facility doesn't appear to be coming anytime soon, and Council doesn't want to pay for it, I would say that harm reduction programs aren't useless at all. They prevent addictions from turning into infections and diseases that cost taxpayers a whole lot more, until the person's earlier death.

I was rather disgusted by a recent article in a Centretown newspaper by Somerset Community Police Officer Nathan Hoedeman that asked the community to help the police deal with the drug problem. Drugs are first and foremost a health problem. It is only by criminalizing them that they become a police issue, and the only "solution" in the police tool box--punishment--is anything but. If we stopped trying to end drug addiction by throwing money at police, we could focus on addressing the factors that drive people to drug addiction, and we wouldn't be aggravating the problem as much by hiding it under the rug.

Of course, this isn't a real solution. Any suburban and rural councillor would lose their "tough on crime" merit badge by voting for a holistic solution. Besides, it's not their fault, it's the province's fault for not building a treatment facility, right?

Why should those foul, criminal drug addicts have access to drug paraphernalia while communities have to pay whopping amounts of nickels (about five per resident per year, according to Salisbury) to clean up their mess? If they can't be responsible enough to hold onto their needles to exchange them for a new one, then they obviously deserve to get HIV and die.

It's clearly obvious, when you hear people like Orléans councillor Bob Monette talk about the drug plans, that they don't value drug addicts' lives--at least, not as much as the people who vote for him. It's right under the surface of his words. So let's just get it on the table, shan't we?

Councillors should take away all the harm-reduction schemes (um... even though the needle exchange is mandated by the province, and the crack pipe program is funded entirely by the province) and set a target for the number of drug addicts who have to die before they'll get off their arses and give a shit.

Seventeen? No, that would be too convenient. Seventeen fewer punk lowlifes to suck up valuable resources of real citizens, but enough left to blame for society's problems.

Twenty-six? Well, now we're getting someplace. Let twenty-six people die and maybe you can build a smaller treatment facility. Though nobody's really shed a tear for twenty-six dead homeless scum.

We'll have to let about fifty-eight of them writhe to death, isolated in an agonizing feeling of pain and meaninglessness. Hell, once you get that many off the streets, you can just lock the rest up in the slammer and forget about them. Then they're no longer dead drug addicts or dead homeless, they're dead criminals. Hey, and you don't have to worry about building that treatment facility!

Do all anti-harm-reduction people think this way? No. Community residents are mostly thinking about themselves and their children, and politicians are mostly thinking about buying votes. They both see that by removing stopgap measures, things will get a lot worse, but it simply doesn't concern them that a long-term solution is nowhere to be seen. That's somebody else's problem--and fault.

But don't ascribe it all to egocentrism and ignorance. Racism and classism are not foreign to our town: check the reader comments in the Ottawa articles on cbc.ca, and you'll be shocked to see how quick people are to blame everything on immigrants.

So ask your councillor, how many dead drug addicts do they think is enough?

- RG>

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