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Canadian Nurses Association disappointed with short-sighted Respect for Communities Act

Ottawa, March 23, 2015 —The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is disappointed that Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act, was passed in the House of Commons today because it will impose unnecessary and excessive barriers for communities trying to establish supervised injection facilities.

Evidence clearly demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations — especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness. A government truly committed to public health and safety would enhance access to prevention and treatment services — instead of building more barriers.

The Conservative government has previously said that sites “for sanctioned use of drugs obtained from illicit sources has the potential for great harm in a community.” CNA is concerned that their tough on crime position — marked by the removal of a harm reduction pillar in its national anti-drug strategy — will overshadow evidence that demonstrates positive outcomes for communities with harm reduction programs. In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where the Insite supervised injection site is located, business owners, service providers and residents in the neighbourhood agree that the clinic has had a positive impact on the health of the people who use it and on the health of the community.

Stakeholder consultations and research are indeed necessary and important, especially because harm reduction programs are meant to benefit the whole community and promote the health and safety of its members. However, CNA thinks this bill prescribes an excessive amount of reporting before the federal government even considers an application. Furthermore, when a community does apply for exemption, the legislation does not direct how the minister of health should assign weight to the various consultations in their final decision. Lastly, the bill states the minister may grant exemptions only under “exceptional circumstances” — not leaving much hope for communities looking to establish an important harm reduction service.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada representing 135,000 registered nurses. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

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For more information, please contact:
Kate Headley, External Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: kheadley@cna-aiic.ca