On the 17th February 2011, an international coalition of harm reduction experts — comprised of the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and CACTUS Montréal — were granted intervener status to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to support Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site, against the Canadian government’s attempts to shutter it.

In a landmark 2010 decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled that Insite fell within the jurisdictional authority of the provincial government, since the supervision of injections of illicit drugs within a health-care setting constituted a matter of public health, and as such did not violate federal health or drug laws — a decision the federal government lost little time in appealing. This appeal is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.

“There is extensive evidence that safe-injection sites save lives, often by reducing the injection behaviour that can transmit HIV and hepatitis C,” says Rick Lines, Executive Director of IHRA. “Furthermore, harm reduction measures are supported by all international conventions promoting the rights and health of the individual — and Canada has signed onto these very same conventions.”

The outcome of this appeal will carry serious implications for other jurisdictions across Canada looking to emulate Insite’s success by implementing their own safe-injection sites.