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Commentary & Opinion

Canada: Public Health Leaders Criticize Ottawa's Ideology-Based Drug Policies

April 10, 2012

In its approach to drug use, the federal government is favoring political ideology over scientific evidence, several Canadian public health leaders are saying. The chief medical officers of health for British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia have published a commentary in the Open Medicine journal addressing the issue.

"There's some evidence that [the model we use is] very ineffective and creates a whole class of harms which wouldn't be there if we weren't dealing with drugs in this particular way," said Dr. Perry Kendall, British Columbia's chief medical officer of health.

Speaking for themselves as individuals, Kendall, Dr. Robert Strang of Nova Scotia, and Dr. Moira McKinnon of Saskatchewan co-authored the commentary declaring that Canada's current approach has not only failed to control drugs, but also has spawned drug violence and the spread of infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV. Dr. Evan Wood, of the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, was also a co-author. The B.C. Center supports the Vienna Declaration, which debuted at the International AIDS Conference in Austria in 2010. It calls upon governments to develop evidence-based drug policies.

The authors maintain Canada should address drug addiction as a health problem versus a criminal justice issue. Canada, they said, is moving toward mandatory minimum sentences, even as several US states are abandoning such laws. Although mandatory minimums were a provision of the omnibus federal crime bill given Royal Assent in mid-March, Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's medical officer of health, believes that "in the modern era" science should outweigh ideology in shaping policy, which should be evidence-based.

The Urban Public Health Network, which represents the chief public health officers in Canada's 18 largest municipalities, also has announced its support of the Vienna Declaration.

Back to other news for April 2012

Adapted from:
Canadian Press
03.28.2012; Helen Branswell


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS: Canada
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