Sonya Chandler

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

Yes. I am in favor of opening several fixed site needle exchanges. The principles of Harm Reduction would suggest that easing access to harm reducing tools i.e. needles would indeed reduce harm! I would also like to see the inclusion of needle exchange services in our clinics, pharmacies and hospitals so that those who seek this service can get access without barrier.

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

Yes. As a registered nurse at a street level medical clinic I see firsthand the impact that safe, respectful relationships have on individuals’ health choices and outcomes. A safe consumption site ensures dignity and safety for people who otherwise do not find either of those things in many other areas of their life. The only hesitation I have in respect to a safe consumption site is that currently we do not have the support services to refer on to once people make contact and request further services – like detox, treatment, housing, family doctors, nutrition etc…

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

It means providing tools (equipment, program or policy) designed to reduce (drug-related) harm without requiring the cessation of (drug use/other potentially harmful act). Interventions may be targeted at the individual, the family, community or society but must be executed in a nonjudgmental fashion as directed by (according to the agenda of) the individual at risk of harm.

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

Currently we are in an ‘us’ versus ‘them’, blaming, angry relationship with those that are experiencing harm from drug use. I believe Harm Reduction is at the core of compassionate, empathetic engagement with our most vulnerable community members. As we begin to empathize, it is my expectation that there will be a shift in the way that we do things – resulting in a safe, healthier more vibrant community for all of us.

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

As a Registered Nurse working with street involved youth at the Victoria Youth Clinic I have been a vocal advocate for Harm Reduction principles in regards to community planning, municipal budget allocations, strategic planning and social policy/planning. I will continue to do this, as well as act as an internal educator as I help colleagues (both staff and council) truly come to an understanding of the importance of Harm Reduction.

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

The War on Drugs, is really just a War on Vulnerable People – since the term was coined we have seen no decrease in the use or availability of drugs in our communities. I was the only councilor who voted against the Police request for 19 new officers in the 2008 budget cycle – and I did this because, according to the Police themselves, much of the work they are currently doing is directly related to addiction and/or mental health issues, two areas that do not benefit from enforcement or incarceration. We would have much better societal outcomes if we were to invest into our social and health services.

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

I have not specifically considered drug laws, but I do support Medicinal Cannabis as a therapeutic option, that is often also a harm reduction tool.

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?

I believe that my skills and values as an RN working at a street clinic have really provided me with the knowledge and the perspective to be a strong asset to our community during these times of social and economic unease. I am a firm believer in compassionate health promotion and harm reduction on the streets and even around the dinner table, and I look forward to returning to my post at the council table!