One of the greatest health threats in North America is the opioid crisis. Since 2015 it has caused about five thousand deaths in Canada alone. Indigenous communities have been ravaged by the epidemic. National and provincial governments are being forced to take the matter in hand.

The fight has manifested itself in changes to healthcare policy, and class action lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the drug company that allegedly pushed OxyContin™ and OxyNEO™ via marketing tactics that minimized the risks associated with the drug. In the US authorities have launched criminal investigations into Purdue’s marketing tactics and many Canadians are demanding that our leaders follow suit.

Purdue Pharma has offered settlements to plaintiffs across Canada. The suit made the news recently because a judge in Saskatchewan rejected the settlement in March. This article is going to give an overview of the opioid crisis in Canada, what this has meant for victims, and for chronic pain sufferers. I will also go briefly into the nature of addiction based on the newest available research on the subject and talk a bit about how class action lawsuits and corporate criminal liability work with regards to this particular case. Please note that I am not a doctor or a psychologist or a crisis worker, and I welcome comments from them on how best to address this epidemic.

In 1996 Purdue Pharma released its new painkiller OxyContin™. Purdue used an aggressive marketing campaign to encourage doctors to prescribe it, calling it a safe and effective means of treating pain with minimal problems. Unfortunately the drug is highly addictive and overdose deaths began to climb steadily over the next three decades. In February 2018 Purdue finally announced that they would stop “promoting opioids to prescribers” in the United States, but sadly that policy does not extend to Canada, the branch of which- Purdue Canada – operates independently.

Most opioid addicts like Ben Miller, one of the plaintiffs suing Purdue, became addicted to OxyContin™ by being legally prescribed it for pain. His doctor prescribed the drug while he was living in Ontario in 2007 and he became addicted. According to court transcripts from 2013, Miller was addicted to OxyContin™ until the end of 2011 but continues to struggle with the risk of relapse into addiction. Most accidental opioid poisonings in Canada happen with seniors, many of whom were taking the medication as prescribed.

That said, there has been another group suffering under Canada’s opioid epidemic, and it’s one that is seldom talked about: chronic pain sufferers. These are people with long term back problems, bad knees, fibromyalgia, non-fatal forms of MS and other pains the sources of which are difficult or impossible to treat and with pain levels that can spike under cold or humid weather conditions.

For many, opioids like hydromorphone are the only effective drugs to treat acute pain episodes, but with new awareness about the dangers of opioids, attempts to get a prescription are met with suspicion and often disdain. Safer medicines like marijuana and other cannibinoids, which have proven effective for treating pain with low addiction risks, are still treated like dangerous drugs due to their criminalization and physicians often refuse to prescribe them. Those who succeed in getting a referral to Montreal’s only cannabis clinic have to pay up to two hundred and fifty dollars just for the consult.

Daisy suffers from chronic back pain exacerbated by cold, humid conditions. Despite the opinion of two physicians and her psychologist that she is not an addiction risk, attempts to renew her pain medication when she needs it are often met with suspicion. Though she takes it as prescribed, pharmacists in the past have treated her like a junkie when she seeks a renewal. Unfortunately many people going to emergency rooms for pain across Canada are often pumped full of opioids and sent home without the necessary referrals or tests to find out the source of the problem.

New research into the nature of addiction indicates that it is a complex disease with social and biological traits. There is a scientific consensus that addicts have underactive dopamine systems – the system of neurotransmitters that control the pleasure and reward centers in the brain – and have a lesser capacity to enjoy their everyday lives. They suffer from anxiety and depression and have poor support systems and resources to cope.

Most drugs act by filling the brain with pleasurable dopamine. As a person continues to use the drugs, the brain adapts and produces less dopamine, forcing the addict to take more. That said, studies have confirmed that recovering addicts that do so in a supportive, loving community environment are less likely to relapse.

The lawsuit against Purdue Pharma contends that:

  • From 1996 to 2001 the company claimed that OxyContin™ was safer than other prescription opioids
  • Prescribed usage of the drug leads to addiction requiring more frequent and higher doses
  • Discontinuing use of the drug causes severe withdrawal symptoms that can last weeks or more
  • Concerns about addiction have been known to Purdue Pharma since 2003 when the Government Newfoundland and Labrador launched an OxyContin Task Force to deal with the rising number of deaths from the drug

Purdue Canada has offered to settle the class action lawsuit for twenty million dollars, a pathetic sum when you take into account the cost of legal representation for the plaintiffs and the fact that provincial health insurers tasked with dealing with the epidemic will be getting a large part of this.

Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia approved the settlement. Judge Barrington-Foote of Saskatchewan rejected it, pointing out that for the court to approve a class action settlement, it must be satisfied that the settlement is “fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the class as a whole.” Judge Barrington-Foote felt the settlement was too small to be considered as such.

If the government launches a criminal investigation into Purdue Pharma, it will have to decide whether to seek indictments of individuals within the company or of the company itself. If the latter, the prosecution will have to meet the criteria for corporate criminal liability set out by the Supreme Court in Canadian Dredge and Dock Co. v. The Queen [1985], specifically:

“that the action taken by the directing mind (a) was within the field of operation assigned to him; (b) was not totally in fraud of the corporation; and (c) was by design or result partly for the benefit of the company. ”

The opioid crisis is a complex problem that needs addressing to avoid further loss of life. Our governments are coming up with action plans to fight it. Here’s hoping that their plan doesn’t hurt those in pain.

Featured image by Psiĥedelisto via WikiMedia Commons

Communication is the key to success, they why is it so hard sometimes? It’s a rusty skeleton key. Say what you are feeling and you will feel better. Tell them what you want or you are never going to get it. Ask, and you shall receive. Listen to your heart, but more importantly listen closely to what others are saying, you are not the center of the universe.

Kindness is sharing time and being compassionate, spreading more than just your legs, scattering radical love and positivity. Be open with your emotions, feeling is important, even the deepest hurt is temporary.

There is a love waiting for you, this unrequited veil will pass in the night without much notice. But remember, even the highest high is also temporary. Hold the good times close. Make art about them. Keep them in your heart for those cloudy days of old age.

Be an active listener by being patient and attentive. Look them in the eyes. Stop texting your arguments and actually have them.

Take action. Get in the car. Go to Mardi Gras. Kiss the girl. Kiss her in the rain, kiss her in the tent as it’s about to blow away, kiss her in the car, kiss her on the forehead, kiss every crevice of her, and even kiss her eyes while she sleeps warm next to you.

She fills the hole in your heart that normally would take years of therapy to mend. Never forget the moment you stood there and saw oblivion in each others’ embrace.

Life is fucked up. Death is always knocking. I am not afraid of it, not really. I am more afraid of the debt collectors that won’t stop calling my parents house and the junkies who need $5 for a buzz that will never satisfy them.

I want to live and change the world, I want to be known, I want to be remembered. I want to be more than just a Facebook account. Living in a closet screaming in silence is not the way to exist. Working in a cubicle day in and out in the town you were born is cruel and unusual punishment for a job well done. I want to feel like a new born baby, taking on the day as if it’s the first time I saw light.

Love is a unparalleled high. Drugs can be an escape from our own bitter realities. I am scared to try DMT, aka the death molecule, an intense psychedelic, because that feeling is the best feeling in the world. You earn it after a long life. It is your reward for dying with conviction.

Feeling the death molecule early by way of some drug scientist’s experiment seems sketchy. I don’t want to feel death. I want to feel life!

We are all dying, inching closer to the end with each lovely breath. We have no idea what’s next, even if you believe in more or nothing, it’s all uncertain. All that is completely certain is this moment. Breathe in and out, make sure to smile. I want to live on that rooftop with my lover and overlook our vivid dreams of sunsets and waterfalls.

This moment is fragile, so many variables are keeping it afloat. I really do not know what I want.

It’s baffling to think that I have lived for 31 years in the darkness of my own wants and needs. I guess I never really took much time to consider what I require to succeed.

WHAT THE FUCK DO I WANT? All of my needs are met and material bullshit does not matter. I do know what is important to me: my family, my friends, my cats, the earth, food not bombs, art, and freedom!

My roots dig deep but perhaps one day I will find new soil to plant them in. I will never know if I don’t explore it. I know I can change. Becoming vegan and caring more about community service, solidarity for all causes, recycling, composting, using non aerosols, and giving up glitter and bottled water is just the start. I met a human that makes me better and aim to love her the best I can, with openness and honesty.

I have never been to counseling, but know a lot of humans who swear by it. It would feel incredible to have someone listen and give educated advice.

I bottle things up and run away from all hurt, repress and push away anything that causes my happy heart pain. One foot solid on the ground, anchored, unwavering. Meanwhile the rest of me is a balloon that has lost its string, floating toward oblivion, only to end up in the ocean strangling a fish that hasn’t been born yet. It’s bizarre to be so grounded and so lost at the same time.

I can’t be consumed by the what ifs if I never try. You don’t know how to live unless you go for it. Try all the things, take the leap, scream into the endless cavern of life. The echo is you from a moment ago and you are not alone.

All I have ever wanted was love, but I don’t know how to do it. I don’t really know what makes me happy until it is happening.

For me it was always easy to think about polyamory as a single person. Jealousy and fear are all internalized bullshit. I know that the only way to move past it all is unwavering communication.

The butterflies haven’t been in my belly for years. I think age consumed them. The love I feel now is better, it flutters with truth and understanding, it is a feeling of safety and admiration.

Nobody has ever told me that they appreciate me. I appreciate being appreciated.

Real love is consent and constant. It is wanting to work on things when one is feeling off, it is changing the path to make your lover feel more safe and free in your arms. Love is not a prison or a cage for your heart.

Free Love? I certainly won’t pay for it. I have been alone for so long that it feels strange to work on a relationship. I am feeling this wave of change. Slowly creeping monsoon of repair and washing away regret.

It is easy to look back at the corpse of a relationship and see what went wrong. You can pinpoint the moments where you could have stepped up, you could have taken a stand and stood up for them or given some extra care.

I remember laughing at someone I once loved when they told me a deep truth, they were vulnerable and real and I didn’t know how to handle it. I could have hugged them and let them know it was okay. Instead I left a wall between us.

Each experience has brought me to here and now, it made me ready for what’s to come. I have learned to talk more. Adventure beyond all wonder and belief, a love with passion that will last forever, starts with communication.

Now that wall has come down, brick by brick, falling rubble of yesterday’s tears. I want to relinquish all fear and stop being paranoid of abandonment. I am enough, I am worth it.

Self hate and emotional deprivation is tragic. Self destruction runs deep when you grow up fat, but honestly we probably all feel that way. It doesn’t matter what you look like, there will always be someone you think is prettier, skinner, younger, smarter, and more worth it. That’s a lie, that’s society dividing us. We are better than our misdirection.

I want to open up. I want to cut through my emotional blockage with a machete. Years of filth won’t get clean overnight, I need emotional renovation.

This time it’s worth it. I have learned from past heartache. Finally I am chosen! Let’s stay together and make it work this time.

I need to say what’s on my mind. If I communicate it will be okay. Take the stitches out of my lips and the duck tape off of my ears.

It’s time to open up. It’s time to feel and evolve. I need to talk with my parents, my lover, my friends, my roommates, my co-workers, and the people I meet in everyday life.

You should do it too! Take this chance to clear the cobwebs out of your mouth. Once you speak up it is addicting.

After years of pleading, debating and waiting, the Quebec Ministry of Health officially released the funds to open three supervised injection sites (SIS), as well as one mobile unit in Montreal. Two such sites are already in function in Vancouver, but it will be a first for Quebec.

Quebec will release $12 million over three years to three community centres in Montreal: Spectre de rue, CACTUS and Dopamine. One part of the money will help the centres prepare the locations and fulfill all the requirements to be granted an exemption from the law on drugs by the federal government.

The other part will be used for the launching and running of the sites’ operations. One mobile unit will also be providing services in a few boroughs. No official date is set for the opening of the facilities, but Le Devoir mentioned that it could be as soon as March 2017.

The project is far from new. In fact, six years have already passed since the Director of Public Health started pushing for the opening of SIS in Montreal. In June 2015, Mayor Coderre had announced his plan to go forward with the facilities, with or without Ottawa’s approval.

At the time, the provincial government decided to lend a hand. According to Lucie Charlebois, Quebec’s Minister of Health and Healthy Living, “we are now at the final step” of the process.

She told Radio-Canada that the work on installations and the hiring of medical staff was already on track. “That means we’re advancing quickly.” She commented that she discussed the matter with her federal counterpart, Jane Philpott: “she is very receptive towards it, but we have to fit certain criteria, that is clear.” Charlebois stated that she believes that getting the federal approval will be a formality.

Sandhia Vadlamudy, the director of CACTUS, told FTB by phone that this formality requires a lot of paperwork, but no problematic modifications.

Last year, CACTUS distributed 610 000 clean syringes in an effort to prevent transmission of infection, which is around 65% of distributed materials on the island, including those distributed in CLSCs and drugstores. With their supervised injection site finally going forward, they will be able to “add one more tool to prevent infections and overdoses.”

Some have argued that the government would do better to focus on treating drug addiction or even on cracking down on drug crime instead of improving the conditions of drug use. Vadlamudy doesn’t think that promoting abstinence and prohibition is sufficient.

“This approach is more based on pragmatism; which is to say drugs exist and people take them.”

She argued that SIS are beneficial for more than just drug users, highlighting that, within four years of operation,  SIS start saving money for the healthcare system by preventing overdoses and health deterioration in users.

It will also help reduce the number of intoxicated people and of used needles left on the streets “and thus improve the quality of life of everyone in the community.”

Slowly breaking the taboo

According to the Director of Public Health, there are 4000 regular users of injectable drugs in Montreal. People who use injectable drugs are 59 times more like to be infected with HIV. An average of 70 people die of drug overdoses every year in Montreal.

In the eyes of many, SIS remain a marginal, controversial option for desperate cases, when they are not a silly progressive scheme. But their growing popularity around the world and the expanding stack of evidence in their favour are now hard to ignore.

The first North American facility, Insite, opened in Vancouver 13 years ago.  In 2008, federal health minister Tony Clement called it “a failure of public policy, indeed of ethical judgment.” Just last spring, Toronto’s Police Association expressed firm opposition to the idea of opening SIS in their city.

“Insite is not a model we want to see replicated,” association president Mike McCormack said, fearing that SIS would attract crime and loitering and thinks that government money would be better spent on treatment options.

Insite handles 600 injections daily. Not one person has died of an overdose within its walls. According to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, there was a 35% decrease in overdose deaths in the area of forty blocks around the site. BC’s HIV and Hepatitis C infection rate went from the highest of the country to one of the lowest. More than thirty peer-reviewed papers were published about Insite’s beneficial impact.

Supervised rooms for drug consumption started popping up as a response to AIDS epidemics and the spike in overdoses in the eighties and nineties. There are now about 90 of them around the world.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction recently published a study in which they found overall that those sites increased safe and hygienic drug use and reduced risky behaviours. They also found that, contrary to Toronto’s Police Association’s concerns, there was no evidence that those sites increased drug related crime and violence in their vicinity.

*Featured image by Todd Huffman, WikiMedia Commons

“Let’s plan on being spontaneous tomorrow!” There is no moment other than the one we are living in right now. You can’t push off things. Our world is on the verge of apocalypse, so why wait? You must delegate time to every important person and endeavor in life now. It’s easy to overfill your proverbial plate. Dreams don’t magically happen.

I will be late to my own funeral, feverishly typing this article the morning it’s due, I’m constantly in a hurry but I can think of other things to do.

I’m on my period and my emotions are running wild. AllI need is chocolate and a bong rip, I want sleep but have so much I need to accomplish before closing my heavy lids.

Instead of finishing and moving on I got my nostalgia on and watched a Fuller House marathon in my sweatpants with my roomie. I am the worst when it comes to being distracted. There is always a cat needing to be pet or a cute human starving for my attention. Why clean my room when I can have a threesome instead? The bar is always so much more appealing than the gym.

Its easy to be distracted when you live in an adult fun house. My roommates are all artists and performers, collaborations waiting to happen, an endless sea of ideas. I am excited to come home and create after a long day at work. If we are caught doing housework we are usually in full costume.


We are all busy with multiple jobs and love affairs. Never judge someone by their day job, you never know what their dreams are. A fast food worker who does burlesque at night, baristas with soulful voices, bank teller poets, call center thespians, teachers who write pulp romance novels, tattooed doctors, veterinarian vegetarians, and retail rock stars.

We all have to take on many roles in life just to pay the stupid bills. I am sick of working everyday, life would be better if I could be an unemployed activist.

I still play dress up. I was the little girl who put on my mom’s clothes and makeup. Now I have more costumes than street clothes. My entire life is consumed with creation. I live like an eight year old, a pinup girl on a pink tricycle, the prettiest princess, and a powerhouse of ideas.

burlesqueI live with a makeup aficionado. It’s fun to come home at 9AM to someone in full drag, and then joining in. Playing is what life is all about.

Sometimes we dress in full costume for no reason at all and just wander around the neighborhood. There is no better cure for a broken heart. Halloween is everyday in a burlesque dancer’s house. It makes adulting nearly impossible.

Besides Facebook crack, my biggest distraction is love. Yearning to be swept off my feet, yet I have never been picked up off of the ground.

The world stops and I low key lose myself in pursuit. My thoughts get consumed, suddenly all of my art is about this person and not about politics or important issues.

I need to focus on meaningful art and experiences and half the time all I do is dwell on people who don’t want to have sex with me. I can’t get past rejection, I become addicted to the wrong person, and then let it totally yuck my yum.

When I just am the rawest version of myself and I do not expect anything, good things come my way. I had a threesome the other day that was by far the best sex I have ever had in my life. I never felt closer to letting go. I always hold something back, even when I “love” a person, I can’t help it. Maybe it’s self protection?

Letting go is my new theme. I recently did my first whip it in a yurt on top of a mountain in West Virginia and my thoughts vibrated. I was definitely a late bloomer when it came to drugs and alcohol. Even though I am a total stoner now, in high school I wasn’t the kid that skipped class to smoke across the street or steal parents’ liquor.

I didn’t drink at all until well after my 21st birthday. I wanted my brain to fully form before I destroyed it. I was always fighting distractions, I felt like school was an important thing to focus on and I’m glad I did it sober. I talk to a lot of people that partied hard in their youth and are now burned out. I didn’t die at 27 with a white lighter in my pocket, #winning.

dress up

There are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Some days it’s so hard to even get out of bed, I will often sleep away my only day off because I spent every other night up writing a blog, working on a costume, or painting a damn masterpiece. I need to just do nothing with my purring cats, they know when I need to chill more than I do most of the time.

When I find motivation I am fucking unstoppable. I am so afraid of missing out and having life pass me by that I go balls to the wall and attempt to get everything done under pressure. I am always being lectured: Act your age, get a “good” job, a girl like you should be getting paid (I would rather get laid).

As I age I digress, and that’s true success. Act out! Act up! Act a Fool! Act like today is your last day of living! Don’t stress on the stuff you didn’t accomplish, no looking back, just move forward. You are the best.

Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, smokes crack when he’s hammered. He admitted as much and after doing so, his approval rating went up.

It’s not a surprise, really. Admitting you’ve done probably the most stigmatized drug out there, using a drunken stupor as your excuse and then announcing that not only are you not stepping down but plan to run again for mayor of Canada’s largest city takes not only balls but but a certain amount of political genius.

Politics are far too scandal-driven and I think people are sick of it. I’m sick of it. When I see surveillance photos of Ford pissing discretely by a bush, I remember that on more than one occasion, when, say, drinking with friends in a park, I too have temporarily excused myself from the group and taken a discreet leak against a tree.

It’s true that I wasn’t waiting for a crack dealer at the time nor was I the mayor of anything. The first difference is important, the second shouldn’t be, but it is.


Politicians are people and people have failings. If those failings affect their ability to carry out the job they were hired to do, then the public has a right to know them and judge them accordingly. If not, then they don’t, aside from cases of murder, rape or physical violence.

Until now, that hasn’t been the case. Any personal transgression, such as drug use, excessive alcohol use, cheating on a spouse or sleeping with a sex worker have been grounds for resignation or the kind of stuff opponents dig up during a campaign to prevent a candidate from being elected.

Now all that may change. If Ford sticks with his plan to run again and makes it to the election (let’s be honest, he’s not in the best health), then there’s really nothing his opponents could dig up on him. Anything they do find would most likely pale in comparison to what’s already out there and admitted to.

He may win. Hell, if I lived in Toronto, I might even vote for him. Not because he smokes crack, but because he’s planning to run in spite of scandal.

He’s the litmus test for the elimination of the power of scandal in politics. Unfortunately, he’s also Rob Ford.

He’s the mayor who thinks it’s okay to divert city busses for the football team he coaches. That’s a problem, falling over while throwing a football isn’t.

He’s the mayor who wants to make things as difficult for cyclists (and even joggers) as possible. That’s a problem, having a physique that doesn’t lend itself to those activities isn’t.

He’s also the mayor who gropes his former opponents at public functions when he’s loaded. The groping is a problem, so is his being drunk at a public function, alcoholism on his own time is a personal issue and not the public’s concern.

His hypocrisy is. He was elected as a Harper-loving, law and order anti-gang, anti-drug candidate, but apparently what’s good for others isn’t good for him. If you want to hang with drug dealers in your spare time, don’t try to jail them when at work and not just because some of them may have cameras.

support rob ford billboard
Billboards supporting Ford have been popping up around Toronto (photo by Stephanie Smyth via Twitter)

I wish the crackhead mayor was someone else, someone whose politics I could get behind. Then eliminating the politics of personal scandal would be a truly positive change.

Defeating Rob Ford should be about defeating what he stands for politically. Unfortunately, if he does lose or resign, almost everyone will think it’s because of the crack and drinking and nothing else.

If Ford wins, it will deal a blow to personal identity scandal politics, which is a good thing, but it will also reinforce his lousy policies. If he loses or resigns, almost everyone will think it’s about the crack and drinking and nothing else, what he stood for politically will still be viable and personal scandal will still be a way to defeat political opponents.

Rob Ford should lose or resign, but not because of crack or drinking, but rather in spite of them.

Justin Trudeau supports the legalization of marijuana. Not only that, he’s not afraid to admit that he’s smoked the odd joint himself. Unless Tom Mulcair and the NDP do something about it, it may just make him Prime Minister.

I don’t say this lightly or even enthusiastically, far from it. I’ve been an ardent NDP supporter for years and with my party poised to take power for the first time ever, to lose by being outflanked from the left by a right-leaning centrist with a good head of hair would be disastrous.

What’s worse is that as an MP, Trudeau both voted for Bill C-15 which imposed mandatory minimum sentences and smoked at least one joint. That hypocrisy will probably be forgotten or ignored by some voters, potheads aren’t known for their memory but they do turn up at the polls (Colorado and Washington, anyone).

While Trudeau may be a hypocrite, he’s a hypocrite who knows good electoral strategy when he sees it. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The only voters he’ll alienate are those in Harper’s Alberta base, people who will vote Conservative no matter what. He won’t lose the Ontario hockey moms who may have voted for Harper last time for economic reasons, in fact he may gain support from those who know their kids will probably experiment with the drug once or twice and don’t want to see them in jail for smoking a joint.

Meanwhile, supporting outright legalization will undoubtedly steal votes from the NDP in their former BC base and maybe even in their current stronghold of Quebec, if voters can get by the last name Trudeau. While a political battle between the love of ganja and hatred of the man who put tanks on the streets of Montreal being directed at his son may be interesting to watch, it doesn’t have to happen at all.


During the NDP leadership campaign, a reporter asked Mulcair if he would legalize pot if Prime Minister and he said no (the party has since reaffirmed its commitment to decriminalization), they would need to run studies first. I strongly suggest that he quietly commissions whatever studies he feels are needed now so the next time someone asks him if he also supports legalization he can answer with an emphatic yes.

It will also be a much more honest yes than Trudeau could possibly give. If both leaders support pot legalization, then the one who did so after conducting the research he said he would do would seem like and be a much better choice than the guy who voted with Harper to harshly punish people who enjoyed what he enjoyed and only embraced legalization when it was clearly a good move electorally.

If the NDP want to remain the only alternative to Harper, then they need to at the very least match the Liberals on social issues. Surpassing them with progressive economics won’t be enough if they lose progressive ground on the next hot button social cause.

Canada is a centre-left country and has always been. A neo-con majority government is just good strategy by the Conservatives and not an indication of changing values.

It seems like the Mulcair and the NDP, closer to power than they ever have been before, may have forgotten that. I fear both removing socialism from the party’s constitution and Mulcair’s views on legalization both walk on the same cold feet.

I know that I’m probably more radical than your average voter but I can see how removing a word, even one that doesn’t carry the same negative connotations here as it does in the states, isn’t the end of the world. If the competition aren’t calling themselves socialist, then socialists who want to vote for a party that has a chance will still vote NDP, word or not. Standing on the wrong side of history when it comes to marijuana legalization, on the other hand, is inexcusable for a party that needs progressive support to win.

If the NDP acts swiftly and comes out with a pro-legalization stance backed by scientific research, then they will, forgive the pun, smoke out Trudeau’s hypocrisy.

Otherwise, pro-pot voters may get lost in the haze and make Trudeau PM.

* Top image by

John Cook has succeeded in raising $200 000. The Gawker editor’s worldwide campaign to raise funds to obtain the supposed video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack from Somali drug dealers reached its target earlier this week. But is Gawker tossing more mud than there already is?

True, the scandal surrounding Ford’s supposed crack use has not only springboarded Canada, or at least Toronto, onto the world stage, but it has brought us into the realm of The Running Man‘s dystopian reality. Canadian politics has long been insulated from the vulgarities of US style vice scandals. But it would appear death by media for public amusement has now arrived.

Further investigation into the Ford clan’s sordid history uncovered the operation of a high stakes narcotics trafficking ring in “Etobi-’coke’ North.” The report sheds light on associates including Klan leaders, a black belt martial artist and a Caribbean drug dealer involved in a bizarre foiled coup of the Dominican government, details so sensational it makes the Charbonneau Commission seem like a search for lost pocket change.

Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford, Brother of Rob Ford, speaks to the media.

Ford’s improprieties may have hoisted Canada into the political hall of shame, an arena typically occupied by American politicians like Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, but is Gawker’s campaign is human degradation profiteering pure and simple.

Their campaign drive fancies itself a crusade for “truth” and an exercise of “democracy.” Since Gawker cannot afford it themselves, Cook asked people to take money from their own pockets to give to drug dealers.

Cook asserts that if people wish to view the video, by paying for it, they are exercising their rights as consumers. In other words, contributing money translates into a “vote.”

After taking money from the public, instead of submitting the alleged video to the authorities, Gawker intends to charge users a member’s fee at and at private screening parties they plan to host, with popcorn and swag to boot. Gawker will directly profit from the Ford video, meaning Cook will have  completely corrupted the “democratic” process. Those without money are without a voice, they are excluded from so-called “voting” which proliferates a perverse US notions that money equals speech.

It seems that Gawker can no longer reach their original source for the video, but even if the footage can be obtained, what does it mean besides profits for the website?

Under Toronto’s system, City Council cannot eject Ford from office nor could it force an early election. The video could, at best, be damning circumstantial evidence at trial. It would hardly be hard proof guaranteeing Ford’s conviction.

Toronto City Council, Council Chambers, City Hall, The Clamshell, Toronto Ontario.

Until the next municipal election, true democracy in action, only Rob Ford can remove Rob Ford. And if the mayor’s profile history is any indication, Ford would not resign under any circumstances.

If definitive proof indeed can be presented that Mayor Ford inhaled crack, Ford should not be tried at the hands of the media with the pubic circus acting as judge, jury and executioner.

Partisanship, pre-determined and emotional disdain of Ford would best be checked. Vigilantism with its non-transparent and potentially unaccountable wrongful actions cannot suffice as substitute justice.

Critics espousing public accountability and transparency in executive, legislative and municipal government cannot exclude themselves. One cannot have their cake and eat it too.

There is no inherit benefit in viewing smut footage only to confirm minds already made up. Like the Jun Lin snuff video, we are all degraded just from watching it.

Ford may have diminished Toronto public office and Canadian politics but watching the alleged video, even just demanding to see it, makes us, along with Ford, unclean and corrupt.

* This post originally appeared on, republished with permission from the author

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) issued a report last week titled “Getting to Tomorrow: A Report on Canadian Drug Policy.” The report calls for our Conservative federal government to change its National Anti-Drug Strategy and decriminalize all drugs for personal use and legalize and regulate marijuana for adults.

The authors of the report (Connie Carter and Donald MacPherson) recommend that Canada reform its drug policy and regulations to include evidence-based approaches to drugs, with the hope of eliminating the stigma and discrimination around the substances.

Evidence-based approaches are not in our Conservative Government’s vocabulary or ideology. If it were, not only would our drug policies be vastly different, but our environmental and economic policies would be as well. You can’t expect a government so hostile to science to embrace facts of any kind.

Speaking of hostility, since Stephen Harper first came into office seven years ago, his party has been nothing but antagonistic towards all forms of drugs. Our law and order government has increased fines and jail time for drug offences and even introducing mandatory minimum sentences for all sorts of drug felonies.


The “lock them up and throw away the key” approach runs in conjunction with the conservative belief that drug addiction itself is criminal.

Harper has continually tried to close North America’s only safe injection site. Vancouver’s “Insite” has proven repeatedly that these sites reduce crime, overdoses and the spread of HIV. Insite has even helped addicts to kick the habit.

A four-year study released last year suggests both Ottawa and Toronto would benefit from supervised drug injection sites, but all attempts to create them have been blocked by then Health Minister Deb Matthews. Other critics of these new safe injection sites included former Ottawa police chief Vern White and ironically Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

It’s just like our Government to keep moving in the opposite direction despite Stephen Harper admitting last year in South America that the drug war has been a failure. “What I think everybody believes, is that the current approach is not working. But it is not clear what we should do.” He said.

Well, if the status quo isn’t working and it isn’t clear what to do about it, why does Harper’s government continue to dismiss every type of alternative? Do the deaths of 60 000 Mexicans or the record number of incarcerated Americans not convey a message to him? Does he not understand that it’s cheaper to treat those trying to quit?

The CDPC report also recommended an increase in health and social services for addicts and social users alike. Services such as housing and treatment for drug addicts and increased support for educational programs about safer drug use must be in the cards. The report essentially advocated an increase of treatment centers and safe injection sites.

It’s understandable that a certain portion of the population might be skeptical of decriminalizing all forms of drugs, particularly the elderly and religious. The longevity of drug prohibition coupled with decades of anti-drug propaganda has left a lasting impression on our aging populace. It’s no wonder the call for change is coming mainly from the younger generations. I’m not entirely sure what religion has against drugs, but I imagine it has something to do with the purity of the soul.

If we weighed the pros and cons of decriminalizing drugs, you’ll find the argument is fairly one sided. The primary reasons to support decriminalization are cost and health. Canada spends more than $4 on enforcement for every $1 we spend on the health related to illegal drugs ($400.3 million – $88 million).

Cartoon-War-on-DrugsIf you factor in courts and corrections, we spend $2.3 billion annually. Roughly 50 000 people are arrested and charged every year resulting in 400 000 court appearances. This is just bad policy given that $1 spent on treatment will achieve the same reduction in the flow of cocaine as $7.3 spent on enforcement.

With all the money allocated to enforcement, those who want to quit or be treated are the ones who continue to suffer. Now, what kind of “moral” society spends more money locking people up than they do to treat sick people?

In Canada, we have public health care and we don’t have private prisons, I can’t understand where the motivation to keep drug users and dealers in prison is coming from. The only real argument to keep drugs illegal is that drug use would increase, but how real of an argument is that? Even if it’s true, at least we would have more funds to treat those addicted.

I was a drug user throughout my late teens and twenties. I can tell you the legality of drugs didn’t come into play when I did them. If anything, it attracted me to them. Do people still believe that keeping drugs illegal will keep rebellious teens from trying them?

Honestly, from what I remember back then, I was pissed off at everything (still am!). My parents instilled a good set of morals upon me, but no government was going to tell me what I can and can’t do. If only our Conservative government could receive the same morals I got, maybe we’d have more treatment centres and less prisons.

Drugs, man. They’re everywhere. Our society medicates itself with the passion and vehemence of Wilford Brimley betting on a cockfight. Or at least it would if it wasn’t so doped up on a cocktail of mellowing pills that passion is just a distant memory of an unwanted side-effect. We have sometimes seemingly arbitrary divisions in place on which drugs are okay to ask your doctor or pharmacist about and which ones will end you up handcuffed in a dank cell praying for the dwindling chances of your posterior’s virtuousness. And which ones will get you put in jail.

It’s been a while since I’ve dabbled in pharmacological recreation of the ilk that’s likely to see one come down adrift in international waters as the de facto captain of a recently shanghai-ed tramp steamer, but one can only have so many mornings like that before it’s time to question the direction one’s life compass is pointed. So it was with a heavy heart that, years ago, I retired my longstanding title of Baron of Bennies (Pope of Poppers in most Catholic countries) and settled into a quiet, natural life of legal prescription big pharma daze. My heavy heart is alleviated somewhat by the heart lightener I regularly take, CardioZephyr®.

My anxiety is tempered quite well by Celexa®, but it brings me down a bit so I counter that with a dose of Paxil®. The resulting paranoia is taken care of with a liberal daily sprinkling of Lexapro®. This combo not only evens my keel like a ballast in a tempest, but allows me to zone in and tell which doorknobs are tracking my sex life through secret circuit boards that were implanted into my brain and genitals by an agency I’m currently trying to recall the name of using a pill designed to restore repressed memories. So far it’s only resulted in a torrent of Crisco-streaked vignettes starring a middle school cafeteria worker that I’m only able to deal with through the avenue of online lunch lady fan fiction.

Speaking of my sex life, it’s never been more freakily fulfilling. I mean, my dick has all the vibrancy of a zucchini found in back of a fridge after three months but, using a stringently detailed regimen of calculated boner medications and blood strengthening agents, it shudders to life like a John Carpenter movie monster at all the right moments. And on the occasions it gets a little overzealous at an inopportune moment, I have a stash of DErection® pills that restore its ropish constitution in mere moments. My testicles, once shrivelled and misshapen by the ravages of years of side-effects, are now marvels to behold. Shiny and smooth like hard-boiled eggs, thanks to the combined efforts of Testefil® and SackGro™.

Of course it’s not all sunshine and green grass like that which is splashed across the boxes of both the mood-elevators and various allergy medications I take. With this much medication there’s bound to be some side-effects. But are the myriad side-effects worth the results achieved? I’d say so. What’s a little bit of oily pore discharge in return for a handle on my dyscalculia. Recurring nosebleeds are a small price to pay to be able to concentrate on watching game shows. My spine is warped and crooked, I’ve got to drain excess eye fluid once a week, I occasionally black out and go on lengthy gambling jags, and none of my four roommates are real. But I’m able to sit and stare from lunchtime until dinnertime without a break in concentration, so I think the cost/benefit analysis is pretty straightforward. And, after a few years, the horrific, unheralded diarrhea becomes second nature and is hardly noticeable.

Some people have been critical of my life approach. But that’s probably because they lack the clarity and singularity of vision that can only be reached with use of a phalanx of mind-altering, radical, and sometimes under-tested synthetic drugs. Comparing a drug-free lifestyle to mine mood-indigo euphoria is like comparing AppleTorr® to those orange anti-anal leakage pills.

I better wrap this up, the pale hands are creaking up through my floorboards again, and my walls are telling me it’s time for a medicine cabinet smorgasbord. I need to even myself out. I’ve had a bit of a rocky day. It took me four hours to write the first five sentences of this article, then three minutes to do the rest. Anyway, I’ve got to go pop all these pills, then shave my cat’s face before it becomes a human’s again.


Photo by Auntie P via flickr

Trainspotting is a entertaining trip about the wonderful highs and soul crushing lows that come along with being a junkie.


Starring: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Ewen Bremer and Kelly MacDonald

Written by: John Hodge

Distributed by: Polygram Filmed Entertainment

Directed by: Danny Boyle

93 minutes.

Hello, my name is Steph and I am a junkie… a film junkie. While I may not go head first into the worst toilet in Scotland to watch a film, I have most definitely devoted an unhealthy amount of hours to staring at screens in darkened rooms, wrapped up in a fantasy world I will never be part of.

This is the brilliance of director Danny Boyle’s (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) second-ever feature; while any reasonable person would never watch Trainspotting and say to themselves “Hey! Let’s all go do some heroin!” it’s damn near impossible not to be affected by this story of a gang of junkies in 90’s Edinburgh.

Benefiting from being released in the heyday of Miramax pictures, Trainspotting not only helped cement Boyle as a director to watch; the film also launched the Hollywood career of the man who would go on to become Obi-Won Kenobi, Ewan McGregor. A smart script adapted from the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name and great supporting cast (including Johnny Lee Miller, who I had completely written off until his disturbing arch on Dexter last year) aside, this film would be absolutely nothing without McGregor’s performance. McGregor plays Marc Renton, a twenty something who revels in his rejection of societal norms. McGregor’s witty line readings have gone on to become part of the pop culture vernacular.

What makes Trainspotting a great film and not just another too cool for school indie is its approach to the depiction of a life of a junkie. There are absolutely amazing scenes glamorizing drug life, such as the opening montage where Renton declares his motto of NOT choosing life.

But the film is careful to point out the other side of addiction as well. “Living like this is a full time business” Renton tells us, and to get a high that’s like the best orgasm you’ve ever had times 1,000… you have to do a lot of robbing, stealing and fucking people over. Sometimes the various ways in which Renton and the gang fuck people over in the name of their habit are played to comedic effect, like pooping the bed or robbing an American tourist. But the moment you see the baby dead in its crib from starvation, you realize just how much these are not characters whose choices you should idolize.

Is Trainspotting the greatest drug movie ever made? No. The film never reaches the epic proportions of The Big Lebowski say, and I wish the soundtrack had less techno and more Iggy Pop. But it is a completely engaging and entertaining portrait of people you would most definitely never want to meet in a back alley on a Saturday night.

Last Friday in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that prohibiting Insite, the safe injection clinic, to operate under an exemption from drug laws would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the ruling said “Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation.” The SCOC ordered the federal minister of health  Leona Aglukkaq to grant an immediate exemption to allow Insite to operate.

The court said similarly that if Insite wasn’t allowed to operate, it would prevent injection drug users from accessing the health services offered at the facility, threatening their health and their lives. The bottom line: to deny access to Insite is to deny access to health care. The ruling paves the way for more safe injection clinics to open up across the country without the fear of clients and staff being arrested.

The ruling comes as a slap in the face to Prime Minister Harper and his anti-crime agenda. The Conservative government has been trying to shut the site down since it came to power five years ago. Aglukkaq said Friday that the government’s investments are targeted at prevention and treatment, but that fact runs contrary to the Conservatives’ crime bill that would introduce tough new laws for simple possession.

If Harper and his Conservative Government were actually committed to prevention and treatment they should have supported clinics like Insite from the get go. In Insite’s surrounding neighborhoods during its eight years of operation, addicts that have started seeking treatment have gone up 30%. It is far more altruistic and cost effective to treat those trying to quit than to lock them up and throw away the key.

Regardless of what people’s opinion might be on the treatment of drug addicts, the Supreme Court made it quite clear that the main issue was safety. In Canada, healthcare is considered by most to be a basic human right; therefore the government (provincial and federal) should be compelled not only to support safe injection clinics, but to help fund them as well.

Inside Insite

Over the past eight years, Insite nurses have overseen more than a million safe injections resulting in 1400 overdoses, but not one user has died as a result. What cost can you put on fourteen hundred lives? According to Health Canada, Insite costs about $3 million annually to operate or $14.00 per visit. 80% of visitors go for safe injections and 20% for counseling.

If you think $3 million dollars a year is excessive, consider this; according to the US National Library of Medicine, if Insite were closed, the annual number of incident HIV infections among Vancouver IDUs would be expected to increase from 179.3 to 262.8. These 83.5 preventable infections are associated with $17.6 million in life-time HIV-related medical care costs, greatly exceeding Insite’s operating costs.

To summarize; safe injection sites save lives, saves money, reduces the spread of disease, keeps the streets cleaner and helps those who are trying to quit. How could any God fearing conservative be opposed to such an economic and ethical cause as Insite? I’m at least pleased to see that the Supreme Court of Canada can still put logic in front of ideology, unlike some of our politicians.

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After our first encounter with E Hastings St. (known by some as Vancouver’s Skid Row), my friend and I agreed—no storyteller possessed the ability to successfully describe the habitants without sounding guilty of hyperbole, so I’ll refrain from dragging on with details. Though with that said, a basic summary is in order.

A deprived crowd lines the street, consisting of burn victims, penny-bag dealers (oregano, maybe catnip?), and shriveled bodies decomposing under the August sun, all with a shared affinity for heroin and an aversion to the “conformists” (e.g., myself, along with my associates). Imagine Jodie Foster walking past the criminally insane inmates in Silence of the Lambs, only without the bars and, ignoring redundancy, more heroin.

In honesty, E Hastings is a depressing representation of the consequences of a social hierarchy, exposing how far a life can fall. Weaving through the natives can be a mentally-draining activity, with most barely standing up (really, in defiance of God), and the few able-bodied individuals exhibiting a penchant for prolonged, unsettling eye contact—at which point, you (the middle-class tourist) realize you just may have inadvertently been involved in this injustice, or at least in juxtaposition, are a spoiled, over-privileged slacker—and if you dare return the eye contact, realize they know it too.

But of course, a willful blindness is expected.

If at all possible, E Hastings is avoided by vacationers and functioning locals—though in the case of myself and associates, frugality (as in the desire for a $39 hotel) ranks as a priority unfortunately above sleeping space (105 ft ² for four males) and cleanliness (post-coitus, unwashed sheets).

All this considered, the absurdity of cramming the four of us into the smallest room offered by a Budget Inn is shadowed by the decision to stay on the street for a drink (rather than bus as far away as possible).

Somewhere in the heart of E Hastings, there stands a dive bar known as the Grand Union; and with the addition of cowboy hats and superseding alcohol for heroin, the clientele inside the bar somewhat typifies the people outside.

Upon the entrance of four relatively well-dressed college kids, the remarkably photogenic David Lynch characters all decide to suspend their activity only to stare in confusion. Downing $12 pitchers on stained couches in the middle of the room, the undergrads attempt to appear comfortable, but the crowd is far too observant to let the social-disparity remain unnoticed.

Cue Granny, adorned in a velvet one-piece, as she approaches the table demanding hugs and photos. Her lack of a camera is perplexing, but the students oblige—snapping endless photos with an out-of-place smartphone (example: below).

Cue Granny’s slightly-less-drunk daughter, as she transforms the Kodak moment(s) into an unanticipated drug deal (a reminder of the abject nature of E Hastings).

Though the price is right to smoke with an inebriated Granny (or Willie, as she’s mistakenly referred to for several blurred minutes) and her middle-aged daughter, partaking does not seem to be a good decision (again: oregano, maybe catnip?)—so two of the students duck out, while another (who apparently went to the bathroom several minutes ago) still has not returned, and the fourth (present writer) digests the temporary abandonment.

He (the fourth) bee-lines for the door, only to be accosted by Granny & Co. as they attempt to schedule the rest of the night with him, resulting in an overwhelming desire to escape, which causes him to belittle his existing company by informing them that his friend is waiting for Granny in the bathroom, then scampering away from the (understandably) disgruntled response.

After I exited the Grand Union and reunited with my friends, a wave of regret took hold, leading to a series of rhetorical questions which, in hindsight, could all be answered the same way… with the words printed on the street sign above.

While I have on several occasions woken up in a strange bed, there have been few that compare to waking up in a hospital. The hangover offered by designer poisons – or chemo brain as the doctors I know have taken to calling it – is one which tends to last not only for hours, but for days. On a good day you might wake up and momentarily forget where you are, and if you’re really lucky, why you’re there. It is a short lived bliss of course; often the  illusion doesn’t last more than a couple of seconds before it is interrupted by the cold insistence of steel bars on your bedside. From here the routine varies a little, although the basics are usually the same: the same thin mattress with it’s mirthless off white sheets, the same small television set at the head of the room, the same tangle of plastic tubing running between your body and a set of machines just off to your right. What varies – if only in a very consistent manner- is the pain. If you’re especially unlucky it’s the first thing that wakes you up, sometimes with shaking, almost always with enough force to make you cry out. Regardless of whether or not you’re ready for it, the malignancy that makes its home inside your body is ready to start its day, and it expects you to do the same.

Perhaps one of the clearest memories of treatment I have is a boy several years older than me sitting alone in one of the many waiting rooms of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Brightly coloured and filled with a variety of toys, it was clearly designed to avoid the somewhat bland, heavy feeling of adult hospitals. The boy, however, did not notice the decorations. Instead he shook. For forty five minutes, and then an hour and a half, and then two hours. He would stand, he would sit but more than anything else I remember the screaming. He screamed for morphine. For a nurse. When the nurses came they told him they couldn’t give him any more morphine as to do so would risk killing him. So the boy sat. He sat and he screamed.

It is no secret that a common and effective treatment for these illnesses is the use of medicinal cannabis. In fact, few other drugs offer such a wide range of medicinal benefits to both symptoms of cancer itself, and the side effects of chemotherapy. Anyone who knows the overwhelming feeling of chemo-induced nausea will  tell you the same. To understand what it actually means to have one of these malignancies living inside of you – not for days, or weeks, but years – is to understand the necessity of medicinal marijuana.

Instead,  what we have seen this week is nothing short of the most repulsive demagoguery on the part of Health Canada as it attempts to further restrict access to seeds with which cancer patients and others can grow cannabis plants within the privacy of their own home. Prohibition itself is nothing short of an embarrassing assault on civil liberties and the rights of the individual: extending this practice to those who actually need and stand to benefit from these  drugs should be viewed as inexcusable, even for those who do not favour the legalization of marijuana.   Medicinal marijuana could have helped the boy above, and countless others like him. Instead, it has been decided for us that it is preferable to hinder these people’s access to the medication they need.

It is a national embarrassment that instead of standing up for individual rights and the well-being of its citizens, Health Canada would choose instead to serve as the enforcement arm for a groundless, decades-old prejudice. It is shameful, and anyone who supports it ought to have a part of that  shame. To promote an unjustifiable and contemptible extension of the government into individuals private lives is one thing, to knowingly deny the ill  the best available treatment is another. What has been decided is that it is not only enough to persecute a truly victimless practice, but that such a persecution is of greater importance than those that fill our cancer wards.

Cannabis will never be as dangerous as chemotherapy, but for those who truly understand what it means to be terminally ill it will be just as necessary. It’s time that Health Canada  stopped enforcing morality, especially principles this ridiculous and unfounded. Maybe it’s something our current Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq will never understand. Maybe it’s the type of thing you can only understand when you wake up one morning in a  hospital bed.


Since opening in 2003, Canada’s first safe-injection site has been at the heart of controversy. Vancouver’s Downtown-Eastside facility Insite has been the subject of media and medical praise, and Montreal’s very own Cactus-Montreal can’t wait to open its own safe-injection site facilities.

Simply put, a safe injection site is a supervised clinic-like environment that provides intravenous-drug users a safe place to go and sterilized tools for their addiction. Using Insite as an example, the facilities have adjoining rehabilitation programs to help people quit their addictions. Plans to open safe-injection sites in Montreal and Quebec city are already in the works courtesy of Cactus-Montreal.

On the national front, the subject of Vancouver’s safe-injection site has reached heated proportions. Provincial governmental supporters of Insite claim the facility falls under provincial health jurisdiction and greatly benefits the community while the federal government ultimately believes the facility is a federal matter and wants it shut down to ensure that others aren’t opened anywhere else in Canada. These differences are the subject of a supreme court case initiated by the Federal government that will reach a verdict in May 2011.

Despite praise from the national medical and social working communities and facts yielded by multiple recent studies in terms of individual benefits (reduced risk of overdose and spread of blood-transmitted infections) and community benefits (increased community safety, easy access to drug rehabilitation programs for addicts), establishing a place like Insite anywhere else in Canada has been met with resistance. The Government claims that not enough evidence is available to prove that Insite or safe injection sites in general are truly helping communities. At this point, Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc is waiting for the supreme court ruling about Insite to be announced later this spring before he yay-or-nays Cactus-Montreal’s plan to open safe-injection sites in the province.

It baffles me that the debate about the effectiveness of safe-injection sites continues as if there wasn’t enough proof that they are advantageous to everyone. Vancouver’s headlines on this topic say a lot: “Safe-injection site slashes fatal overdoses” and “BC safe injection site saves lives.”

Not only that, but Insite keeps the downtown community safer. The Insite website states that 73% of their clients have injected in public before having access to the facility. This fact strikes home for me considering the number of times I’ve walked past used syringes in parks and on the street in Montreal. Just two days ago, I saw a used syringe in front of me on the metro tracks. Having a safe-injection site in Montreal could help centralize used-needle disposal and reduce the stray-needle problem in public areas, among many other individual and community benefits.

Obviously, I’m looking forward to what Bolduc will have to say in May. More to come on this in the near future! In the meantime, take a look inside Vancouver’s Insiteand tell me what you think about having something like this in Montreal!

Images: The Somerville News Blog and The National Post

Do you or a significant other rely on contraceptive pills for your sexy peace of mind? Depending on the type of pill taken, I’d rethink doing that. A popular birth control pill called Yasmine and its contraceptive cousin Yaz are the subject of lawsuits between several thousand consumers and the manufacturer, Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

The lawsuit against Bayer involves thousands of American plaintiffs and a separate class-action lawsuit has also been initiated in Canada. Matthew Baer, a lawyer with the firm representing the plaintiffs in the Yasmine/Yaz lawsuit in Canada, explains that Bayer did not adequately warn consumers about the very serious risks specifically associated with Yasmine and Yaz.

Image courtesy of

How do these two contraceptives and their side-effects stand out from the rest? Women using them are four times more likely than women on other types of contraceptives to experience blood clots, stroke and gallbladder disease. Plaintiffs have reported severe chest and abdominal pain, digestion issues, and gallbladder problems. The pills can lead to life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest and   pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in the pulmonary artery leading to the lungs.

Baer says that these risks should have been “clearly stated [in the product packaging] so that individuals and their doctors could have made informed decisions about what product to use”. Sounds like a pharmaceutical giant has been withholding information from the public. I don’t think anyone’s surprised. Beyond this, the Yaz and Yasmine lawsuits have made it clear that lives are at stake and that corporations like Bayer must be held accountable for their lack of transparency.

We believe that [through these lawsuits] Bayer will be required to explain to Canadian consumers what it knew about the risks associated with using Yasmin and Yaz and when it first became aware of those risks”… which, by the way, was more than a couple of years ago.

Being a woman that’s equal parts skeptic and paranoid, I had to find out what makes this product different from others such as Alesse (brand name for Aviane), Tricyclen, or Diane-35. Like several others of its kind, Yasmin and Yaz are combination oral contraceptives, containing both an estrogen and a progestin component. The estrogen component used in these pills is common to other combination oral contraceptives. It’s the progestin component, called drospirenone, that is the unique ingredient linked to a   sixfold increase in the risk of experiencing those Yazerrific side-effects mentioned earlier.


What’s in that pill? Courtesy of

Oh wait, about Diane-35… If you or a significant other are on it, I’d read about the Diane-35 consumer advisory on the Government of Canada website.

At this point, Miss Paranoid Skeptic perks up again. How did these contraceptives get approved by our dearest Health Canada, most recently in 2008, if the products’ warning labels weren’t properly informing consumers? Apparently Health Canada relies on the materials provided to it by drug manufacturers when approving drugs for the Canadian public. The responsibility lies in the hands of the drug company, which Baer states has “an ongoing responsibility to collect adverse event reports and continue to update the label as necessary”.

This is when Bayer Pharmaceuticals shrugs its shoulders and gives its cutesy ooops. The brand name and generic form (Ocella) contraceptives continue to be available on the market, despite studies that have revealed a heightened risk of potentially life-threatening side-effects. Bayer pharmaceuticals maintains that sufficient warnings about blood clots and other side effects are reflected on product labels.

So, what’d ya say we order an extra large widespread-controversy, a product recall, and an extra dose of corporate responsibility on the side? Siskinds law firm and a website dedicated to the Yasmine/Yaz lawsuits have already gotten the ball rolling on that.

If you’re a Yasmine or Yaz user, get informed about getting off these birth control pills and join the “Take Your Body Back” Facebook group.You can also watch Siskinds law firm’s YouTube video produced by Matthew Baer ( for more information.