Lessons from INSITE, Vancouver's supervised injection facility: 2003–2012

This paper focuses on the evolution of INSITE, North America's first supervised injection site, first opened in 2003, and subjected to continuous empirical and political scrutiny from that date to the present. This analysis considers the relevant global history of supervised injection sites, and key events in the Canadian timeline. The article canvasses the origins of INSITE and its support by the Liberal government of Canada from 2003 to 2006, the change of federal government in 2006 and the decision of the Harper Conservatives to refuse to grant a continuing exemption to INSITE. The paper considers three court decisions, one by the B.C. Supreme Court in 2008, followed by a B.C. Court of Appeal decision in 2010, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the fall 0f 2011, a decision that ordered the federal government to grant an operating exemption to INSITE. The paper examines how empirical evidence was presented to governments and to the courts, and how both governments and the judiciary interpreted the relevance of empirical evidence in the formulation of law and policy. The paper concludes by comparing the parallel experiences of Vancouver's INSITE with the MSIC in Sydney, Australia.

Publication Date: 
January 18, 2013
Journal Name: 
Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy