Conference examines drug use as part of human condition
Published: Thursday, June 01, 2006
The public is invited to take part in a one-day conference on substance use and drug policy in Greater Victoria.
The conference, organized by a coalition of citizens called Voices of Substance, begins Friday at 9 a.m. at the Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard St.
"We're looking for alternatives to the war on drugs," said coalition member Connie Carter. "That's an American approach and it has its problems. In essence, we believe that if we want to reduce the harm of substance use, everybody has to be part of the solution -- the community, the service providers, police, government and the people who use substances."
Voices of Substance embraces the notion that substance use is part of the human condition, said Carter. The group also believes that drug laws and policies have to be based on sound evidence and public-health principles. The group wants to increase public understanding of the complexity of substance use and abuse.
The conference will begin with a day-in-the-life presentation by longtime heroin addict Andy Snitzer, followed by four panel discussions.
Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer, will be the keynote speaker at the first session on health and well-being. Nancy Poole, a gender- and substance-abuse researcher at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in Women's Health, Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, and community activist and former drug user Steve McDougall will sit on Kendall's panel.
A session on public safety and order will be led by retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper. He will be joined by Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill, Snitzer, and Dr. Thomas Kerr, principal investigator of the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver.
Robin Adair, chairman of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, will discuss the economic impact of substance abuse and drug policy and how it affects individuals, the community, the system and the taxpayer. His panellists include Donald MacPherson, Vancouver's drug policy co-ordinator, Jody Paterson, executive director for PEERS, and Ike de Jong, a member of the Rock Bay Business Association.
A session examining human rights and social justice will be led by Lauren Casey from the Canadian National Coalition of Experiential Women. Contributing to her discussion will be Judge Ernie Quantz, Rev. Al Tysick and addictions counsellor Bill Nelles, a long-term methadone user.
After each session, the audience will have an opportunity for discussion.
"At the end of the day, we want to have priorities for action," said Carter.
Space is limited. To register for the event, call Shannon at 361-0505.