The Windsor area has taken its first steps in a fight against the devastating effects of drugs in our region, say the authors of a new framework document aimed at preventing and reducing substance abuse.
“We’ve come together and said, ‘Yes, there’s a problem. Yes, here’s how we should work together,’” said Sheila Wisdom, executive director of The United Way.
Ms. Wisdom was one of several delegates who spoke to city council Monday about the framework, which was more than a year in the making.
Unanimously supported by council, the document will lead to the creation of an implementation committee. Ms. Wisdom said that once the strategy is developed, the community can get better access to provincial and federal funding.
Ward 2 Coun. Ron Jones noted the connection between drugs and crime. “We have a gang problem, and we have a gun problem,” he told the mayor. “And, Your Worship, behind the gangs and the guns, you have drugs.”
However, the document didn’t pass without controversy. Two of the delegates who attended voiced opposition to the mention of “harm reduction” as one of the pillars of a future drug strategy.
Sophia Martin, a recovered addict and now an advocate for those dealing with drug problems, worried that “harm reduction” might include things like the handing out of “crack kits” — drug paraphernalia issued to encourage safer practices among addicts.
“We realize it’s not written on paper,” Ms. Martin said, “(But) handing out crack kits would not preserve the community’s quality of life…. It will definitely support illicit drug activity and destroy our children’s future.”
Rob Cheshire, a volunteer chemical dependency counsellor, warned against “harm reduction” practices he described as “experimentation,” and pointed to the failings of the safe injection site in Vancouver.
“I believe that such a scenario (in Windsor) would be counterproductive, with the distinct possibility of loss of life,” Mr. Cheshire said.
Ward 1 Coun. Drew Dilkens said he’s visited Vancouver and he’s “absolutely paranoid” about its “harm reduction” practices coming to Windsor.
But Ms. Wisdom noted that “harm reduction” has yet to be defined in a local strategy, and there remains much to discuss.
“This is a wicked, messy problem, and there’s not a simple solution to it…. We’re at the starting point of this conversation, not at the end of it.”
Windsor police Deputy Chief Jerome Brannagan said he supports the document.
“The phrase ‘harm reduction’ is all over the place. I would offer a suggestion — that when people talk about ‘harm reduction,’ they look at it as a philosophy on different issues as opposed to a single way of reducing this problem,” he said
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after a June 17, 2008 article by Dalson Chen in The Windsor Star