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Q&A: Nurse offers Christian defence of Insite facility

Meera Bai, an R.N. now working in Calgary with the homeless ,worked at the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver. She was photographed in Calgary on Thursday, May 12, 2011.

Chris Bolin For The Globe and/Chris Bolin For The Globe and

Meera Bai is a registered nurse who worked at Insite for nearly a year. The 24-year-old is now pursuing a master's degree in Christian studies. Ms. Bai had reservations when she first started at the supervised injection site. She now advocates for the facility, offering a Christian defence of harm reduction.

What led you to start working at Insite?

"I didn't actually want to work at Insite, initially. I just wanted to work among marginalized populations. The clinic that I applied for, the nurses at that clinic were also cross-trained at Insite. I decided to give it a try. Don't judge it before you know what they do."

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What concerns did you have about the facility?

"It wasn't so much that I didn't see addicts as being human or anything like that. It was more that I didn't know if what Insite did was the best thing to do for them. I didn't want to enable them. I feel like that's the fear that many people have, that giving out clean needles is encouraging drug use indirectly. I just realized it is really beneficial."

You've given talks and published articles offering a Christian defence of Insite. What points do you make?

"I think that we are all extended grace by God and that we are all loved by God and made in the image of God. When we talk to addicts and we spend time with them, we see them as human, just like ourselves, and see glimpses of God in them because they were made in God's image. ... We're clearly called in the bible to spend time with the marginalized and to protect those who are struggling. Many of these people have gone through incredible abuse in their childhood and throughout their lives. God, for us, as Christians, he's a place where we can go where we don't have to be ashamed."

What feedback have you received at the lectures you've given?

"I gave a talk at Ambrose University College, which is quite a big seminary in Calgary. It was a public lecture and they thought maybe 50 people would come, but 150 showed up. One of the people who came, he put up his hand and said, 'I'm a donor for Ambrose and I was quite appalled that they were doing this talk. So I came here because I think this is wrong. But now I realize what Insite does and this is completely what Christ would be doing. If Jesus was here, he would be washing feet the same way.' He's just one example. I think as people are starting to learn what actually goes on [at Insite] they're realizing this is totally in line with what we think."

What work still needs to be done?

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"I think a huge part of it is education, reframing harm reduction. Not hearing it as just giving condoms to prostitutes but actually helping people. I also think a part of it has to be about understanding what your faith is about. If your faith is, 'I listen to what my pastor tells me and what the political party that I vote for says,' then that's going to be a different brand of Christianity than a thoughtful faith. And I'm trying to encourage a thoughtful faith, because when you're thoughtful about what you believe, it leads you to a deeper understanding of God and a more sincere understanding of God."

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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