Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The Dr. Peter Centre is located in the West End of Downtown Vancouver and is a care centre for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Laura Leyshon/The Globe and Mail

The Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver has applied for an exemption to federal drug laws that would allow the facility to continue offering supervised injection services to its clients.

Nurses at the centre, which provides care to people living with HIV, including many who are poor and homeless, have been quietly providing supervised injection services since 2002 without a formal exemption to Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The Dr. Peter Centre started the service after the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia said that it was within the scope of nursing practice to supervise injections for the purposes of preventing illness and promoting health.

Story continues below advertisement

But a groundbreaking 2011 Supreme Court of Canada decision related to Insite, a high-profile clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, has cleared the way for the Dr. Peter Centre to formalize the practice – with full backing from provincial and city governments.

The application was submitted by the Dr. Peter Aids Foundation and Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional health authority that funds and oversees the centre.

"The Dr. Peter Centre provides a variety of effective care and treatment services for those living with HIV/AIDS including access to supervised injections," B.C. Minister of Health Terry Lake said Thursday in a statement about the application.

"Our government is committed to providing the best evidence-based support and care for British Columbians with substance use problems and addictions, and we support Vancouver Coastal Health and the Dr. Peter Centre in their application."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson also endorsed the application, saying in a statement that supervised-injection services at Dr. Peter Centre and Insite "have become an indispensable public health resource in our community."

The Dr. Peter Centre is seeking an exemption similar to one obtained by Insite, whose supporters went to court to maintain an exemption that was first granted in 2003 for a three-year term.

Throughout that court battle, which lasted years and wound up in the Supreme Court of Canada, the federal government fought against maintaining the exemption for Insite on grounds that included health care falling under federal jurisdiction.

Story continues below advertisement

In 2011, however, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the federal government to grant the exemption and allow Insite to keep operating, saying that to do otherwise would infringe on clients' rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court found that Insite provided health benefits with no discernible harm to the community.

"The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics," the ruling said.

The decision, which was heralded by supporters of the "harm-reduction" approach to drug addiction, was widely seen as opening the door to other legally-sanctioned, supervised injection sites in Canada.

Harm-reduction programs and strategies remain controversial. Earlier this month, Steven Blaney, Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, criticized a program that provides crack pipes through vending machines in the Downtown Eastside.

The two machines, which have been operating for about six month and are located in a drug users' clinic and a single-room-occupancy hotel, provide sterile crack pipes for a quarter. The machines – which complement free crack pipes distributed by Vancouver Coastal Health – are an attempt to steer users away from makeshift pipes, which can splinter and increase the risk of diseases including HIV.

Story continues below advertisement

Portland Hotel Society, which is one of the key players behind Insite, is also behind the crack pipe vending machines.

In a statement, Mr. Blaney said the federal government supports " treatment that ends drug use, including limiting access to drug paraphernalia by young people."

Supporters of the harm-reduction approach say such programs can help connect users to other health services while reducing the risk of overdose deaths and the spread of disease.

Up to 63 per cent of the Dr. Peter Centre's supervised-injection clients have received addiction counselling and about 30 per cent have been referred to withdrawal management or other long-term programs, the centre says.

"Incorporating supervised injection into nursing services at the Dr. Peter Centre takes people off the street and into health care," Dr. Peter Centre executive director Maxine Davis said in a statement.

The centre did not say when it expects a decision on its application.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies