B.C. safe drug-injection site sues critic for defamation
VANCOUVER -- The operators of Vancouver's controversial drug safe-injection site are suing one of its critics for defamation and slander over a two-year-old article.
But a co-founder of Insite says the suit's real target is the RCMP, which he says commissioned the article in an effort to discredit the operation.
"What this is ultimately about is about a conspiracy within the RCMP to get involved in a political debate around health," Insite director Mark Townsend said Wednesday in an interview.
"They commissioned a report that had blatant inaccuracies in it, which they refused to correct, and we want them corrected."
The PHS Community Services Society, which runs the Insite facility on Vancouver's drug-ridden Downtown Eastside, alleges in its writ of summons that drug-prevention expert Colin Mangham injured the group's character, credit and reputation.
A detailed statement of claim has not yet been filed, nor have any of the defendants filed statements of defence.
Mangham's May 2007 article, first posted on the web site of the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, took issue with the concept of harm reduction underpinning Insite and questioned the validity of studies Insite's supporters published.
Mangham suggests in his article that evaluations published in various research journals "include considerable overstating of findings as well as under-reporting or omission of negative findings, and in some cases the discussion can mislead readers."
None of the authors of the studies Mangham challenges appear to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Mangham said he was unaware he was being sued and was surprised by it.
"It's unfortunate that the response to criticism of the research into the work has been so incredibly defensive," he said.
"Usually people respond to criticism of their work by dealing with those criticisms."
Townsend said Insite has invited Mangham to debate his article publicly but met with no response.
It has also tried in vain to get the RCMP to correct what he said are inaccuracies in the article, which he called "just a kind of opinion piece that was masquerading as science. "
"So we've been left with no choice but to say to the RCMP, look you're a giant organization, you're conspiring against us, you're fighting a political battle and you have no right to do that."
RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Annie Linteau said she was not aware if the force had been officially served with the writ of summons.
The writ names the RCMP, former Mountie Chuck Doucette, the B.C. ministries of attorney general and public safety, and the Drug Free America Foundation, which is connected with the web site that initially published Mangham's article.
Insite has been a focal point of controversy ever since it opened in 2003 under a Health Canada exemption from federal drug laws.
Its intended goal is to demonstrate that injecting drugs in a safe, clean environment can reduce the public health impact of drug addiction.
Insite has broad support in Vancouver, including from city hall and the Vancouver police, but it had to fight to get its federal exemption renewed.
Last year, it won a B.C. Supreme Court case to remain open but the federal government has appealed.
Updated Thu. Sep. 3 2009 6:30 AM ET
The Canadian Press