Poilievre repeats misinformation about B.C.’s safe drug supply

I just watched Conservative leader Poilievre’s tacky video set in front of a tent city in Vancouver. For dramatic effect, his video is interspersed with drive-by shots of street people. Grainy effects, except when Poilievre speaks, are added to provide a supposed gritty vérité.

image: The Hill Times

He makes sweeping statements in which he claims these people in the background are hooked on drugs. And some probably are.

But it’s more likely they are homeless because they have no homes: they can’t afford to buy and the rents are outrageous.

Rather than exploit the homeless as props for his populist rant, he could explain just who the homeless are. Rather than characterizing them as drug users, he could tell the truth but that wouldn’t suit his sensationalized video. The fact is that Vancouver’s homeless are overrepresented by indigenous Canadians and racial minorities.

The sad reality is that the homeless are victims of racial discrimination.

Despite accounting for only 2.5 per cent of Vancouver’s population, Indigenous people make up one-third of all those experiencing homelessness.

He could point out that Blacks and Latin Americans are disproportionately represented among the Vancouver’s homeless population.

But no, Poilievre prefers to ignore the racial and Indigenous discrimination represented by the tent city in his seedy video. He exploits those already discriminated by further tarring them all as drug addicts.

Poilievre spouts more populist drivel when he claims and that the “tax funded” safe supply of drugs is a failed experiment.

The opposite is true.

Prescribing drug addicts a safe supply of drugs saves tax dollars. The drugs are far cheaper than the cost of policing and to our health care system of treating addicts who overdose.

In fact, no one has died from a drug overdose at a safe consumption site. The BC Coroners Service looked into illicit drug toxicity deaths between 2012 and 2022 and found that no one had died of an overdose at a supervised consumption site. They said there was “no indication” they were contributing to the rise in narcotic-related fatalities. In fact, 56 per cent of overdose deaths in B.C. this year happened in private residences.

The safe supply of drugs to addicts saves lives because it lowers the rates of overdose and reduces in the use of fentanyl and other street drugs. It reduces the cost to the taxpayer of health care for addicts through reduced hospital admissions and emergency room visits. It improves connections to care and treatment for people who have not had support services in the past. The safe supply of drugs reduces police costs by decreasing criminal activity.

Poilievre adds to his misinformation but saying that injection sites are also to blame. B.C.’s safe injection sites do not use “tax paid drugs.” Users bring their own drugs and staff stand by in case of a bad reaction.

B.C. is leading the country in fighting the stupid laws that led to the problem in the first place.

Starting in January, 2023, adults in B.C. will not be arrested or charged for the possession of up to 2.5 grams of opioids (including heroin, morphine, and fentanyl), cocaine (including crack and powder cocaine), methamphetamine (meth) and MDMA (ecstasy).

Drug abuse is a medical issue. Shame on Poilievre for exploiting the homeless and spreading misinformation.


Phone privacy left unresolved

It’s too bad the court case of the FBI versus Apple didn’t proceed. If it had, the issue of whether phone companies must aid police by releasing private information might be resolved.

FBI new app

The case won’t go to court because the FBI says that they don’t need the cooperation of Apple because they can hack into the phone after all. That presents another problem: if the FBI can hack into anyone’s phone, they should pass on the vulnerability to Apple so it can be fixed.

I’m not a defender of corporations but I was pleased when Apple’s Tim Cook stood up to the FBI. The FBI had obtained a court order requiring Apple to bypass the security lock on an iPhone belonging to a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

“The founding fathers would be appalled,” said a righteous Tim Cook. That’s perhaps a little more dramatic than I would have put it but I agree with the sentiment. Phone providers hold our security in their hands. There is an implied, if not explicit, contract between phone companies and customers that privacy should not be breached except in an imminent threat.

Unlike the high-profile FBI case, there was barely a whisper when a similar case occurred in Canada in 2013. That’s when rumours of a video surfaced showing former mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Police requested a search warrant for a phone belonging to Ford’s driver and it was granted.

When investigators discovered that the driver’s phone was locked with a password, they went back to the court for an “assistance order,” similar to the one in the U.S., that would require Apple to provide assistance in bypassing the password. And without a fuss, Apple did.

Both cases leave the privacy of phone users unresolved; in the Canadian case because the judge didn’t give reasons for his decision and in the U.S. case because it never went to trial.

The Canadian judge was following a trend common in the Dark Decade when invasion of privacy was virtually government policy. The federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner found that in 2014, police made 1.2 million requests to phone companies according to CBC.

Thankfully, things have changed in Canada when the Supreme Court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before phone companies hand over personal information. Before the ruling, Police would approach companies with computer IP addresses that were linked to criminal activity or were suspicious, and receive the name, address or phone number of the person associated with that computer address.

The RCMP now hope that the Liberal government will write laws that will allow them access to private information without a warrant. “Kids could be exposed to the hands of a predator longer, before we’re able to intervene,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Joe Oliver, told Global News.

While everyone wants to protect our kids, the police have a habit of collecting much more information than is necessary. That makes us vulnerable to mistakes. It would allow police to go on fishing expeditions: to gather search history, record of dissent and other personal facts and to store that information without anyone ever knowing about it.