Dion indicates Vancouver safe injection site is OK
Published Friday, February 8, 2008 11:24PM EST
VANCOUVER - The Liberal party has no intention of advocating the legalization of cannabis but leader Stephane Dion made it clear Friday that under a Liberal government, other Canadian cities could see safe injection sites like the one in Vancouver.
Dion, whose party could be embroiled in an election campaign this spring, took about 20 questions at a "town hall meeting'' at the University of British Columbia.
The questions were wide-ranging and included the Liberal party's position on Afghanistan, the economy, climate change -- and marijuana.
"It's not something we will campaign on in the next election,'' Dion said candidly. "But we need to have an approach about drugs that is more effective than the one the government has to date.''
Without being asked about it, he told the crowd of about 150 students that Canada's only safe injection site -- known as Insite and situated in the Downtown Eastside -- "is something in which we believe.
"I think the current government has an ideological approach about that,'' Dion told the gathering that was co-ordinated by the Young Liberals of UBC.
"If the science is telling you that an initiative like that is saving lives, we need to continue it.''
The Harper government has said that the city's safe injection site can remain open until June.
Health Canada announced in October it would extend the exemption from Canada's drug laws that allows Insite to operate. The exemption was set to run out at the end of the year.
The site provides a place for addicts to safely inject themselves with their own heroin under the supervision of medical staff.
A spokeswoman for Health Canada said the exemption will allow further research.
Dion added that a Liberal government would investigate if there are other communities in Canada "willing to address the problem this way.''
Another student suggested that Canada often kowtows to the U.S. on many issues and wanted to know how Dion would deal with the U.S. administration.
"If you get into power, how are you going to handle the way Canada kind of lies down when they want us to do something but then when we want them to do something they kind of slough us off, right?'' the student asked.
"For us Canadians, the United States is a friend,'' said Dion.
"It is an ally but it is not a model,'' he said to loud applause. "This difference between a friend and a model is not well understood by the current prime minister and it will be by me.''
He also told the students that Canada must have its "economic sovereignty protected.''
But as a trading nation with the U.S., he said Canada's "balance of trade is very advantageous for Canada.
"Our trade with the U.S. must be effective but it must be open as well because we are making a lot of money trading with them.