Philippe Lucas

1. Do you favour the re-opening of a fixed site needle exchange in the city of Victoria?

I’m incredibly concerned by the loss of this essential public health service, and in light of the evidence showing that mobile exchange has not been nearly as effective as fixed site exchange services, I strongly support re-opening this service as soon as possible. Additionally, I believe that many of the problems in regards to crowds gathering outside of the needle exchange could be avoided by multiple fixed sites, so would encourage VIHA to follow Vancouver Coastal Health’s strategy of offering needle exchange at all of the clinics and hospitals that it currently manages, and would advocate for increased funding for a stand-alone facility.

2. Do you support the opening of a safe consumption site (like that of InSite in Vancouver) for the City of Victoria?

In light of growing community concerns over the public use of injection drugs and other substances, and the large body of evidence showing that safe consumptions sites don’t increase substance use and in fact have led many users into detox and treatment, I strongly support the implementation of a safe consumption site in Victoria.

3. What does the term harm reduction mean to you?

Harm reduction is an approach to substance use that recognizes and accepts that a certain segment of our society will chose to use currently illicit substances, and that is therefore focused on minimizing the dangers of both substance use and prohibition to the user and society as a whole. Harm reduction is a non-ideological, pragmatic approach to substance use, and can range from abstinence-based treatments to drug maintenance programs. Harm reduction strategies like needle-exchange have been proven to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hep-C and other transmittable diseases to both substance users and the general population, and are more cost-effective and compassionate than criminal justice approaches to addiction.

4. What role do you see harm reduction playing in the creation of a healthy, thriving Victoria?

Harm reduction is a key guiding principle to an evidence-based, public health-centered approach to substance use, and already plays a major role in keeping our community safe. Sadly, recent setbacks like the loss of the AVI needle-exchange service have increased the threats to the health and safety of our entire community.

5. What actions will you take to ensure the City of Victoria follows the principals of harm reduction?

As an addiction and substance use researcher, I believe in evidence-based approaches to drug use and dependence. Harm reduction is already supposed to be a core principle in both the city of Victoria’s and VIHA’s approach to substance use, but both have been far too complacent in regards to the recent loss of our needle exchange and the unavoidable increase needle sharing and ensuing spread of HIV/AIDS, hep-c and other infectious disease in our community. I will be a strong advocate for public health-centered drug strategies, and will work with groups like Harm Reduction Victoria to ensure that we as a community are doing all that we can to reduce the potential personal and social harms of substance use, addiction, and prohibition.

6. What is your position on the current 'war on drugs' and the Victoria Police Department’s approach to substance use and users?

The medical community has long recognized that addiction is a medical condition that can often benefit from treatment, and not a moral failure that can be “cured” through enforcement and incarceration. At a time when police resources are limited and strained, I would rather see the police prioritize violent or predatory crime and keeping the peace, than wasting resources persecuting otherwise law-abiding substance users.

7. What, if any, alternative approaches to current drug laws have you considered? Please describe.

Research clearly shows that drug prohibition has increased the potential harms of substance use (including the transmission of deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS and hep-C) while having no effect on reducing actual usage rates. Additionally, prohibition has crippled our court and prison system with non-violent drug arrests, and wasted resources that could have otherwise been used to increase detox and treatment. I support a public health approach to substance use focused on government control and regulation of currently illicit substances. Such a model would take the high profits resulting from illicit substance use out of the hands of organized crime, and reduce the violence often associated with the drug trade. Additionally, it would free up resources to fund drug treatment, and allow police to focus on more important community priorities like reducing violent crime. This approach is supported by the Health Officer’s Council of British Columbia in “A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada” (http://www.cfdp.ca/bchoc.pdf) and the City of Vancouver’s “Preventing Harm From Psychoactive Substance Use”
(http://www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/fourpillars//pdf/PrevHarmPsychoSubUse.pdf).

8. What further commitments or additional comments would you like to make on your position on drug use and harm reduction, as they affect your candidacy?

There is no such thing as a drug-free society anywhere in the world, and the loss of civil liberties and personal rights resulting from the war on drugs have served to marginalize substance users while completely failing to reduce the rates of either substance use or addiction. Our society would benefit greatly from substance use strategies based on science, reason and compassion rather than fear, prejudice and misinformation.