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Oh, Canada...

November 26, 2010

Rheanna Sand

I thought I lived in a scientifically progressive country. We invented the light bulb. We scratch NASA's back with the Canadarm. We were the first to keep our babies safe from BPA. But I may have to reconsider.

 



At the Knowledge Translation conference on Tuesday, I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by Dr. Thomas Kerr, the epitome of the citizen scientist - a man who seems to apply just as much scientific rigor to his morals as he does his methods. Dr. Kerr's team has been evaluating a controversial pilot project: Canada's first safe drug injection site, called InSite, located in the center of overdose deaths a.k.a. the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. His story was incredible. Even though their data was of the highest quality you can get in public health, the RCMP, Minister of Health Tony Clement, and the Prime Minister's Office took measures to ensure the results were not converted into policy. The "war on drugs" mentality is, right now, trying to prevail over real world evidence. This safe injection site saves lives. It prevents violence against women. It helps people quit. It gives people hope. And yes, it even saves money. Harper and Clement are taking the case to the Supreme Court in spring 2011, and I'll be watching.

From silencing and attempting to discredit independent research, to exploiting a natural resource without long-term considerations of ecology - and no, I'm not referring to the seal hunt. For the record, I think traditional hunts are acceptable and help control seal populations. It's my own neighbourhood tar sands - they've been getting a lot of publicity lately with the help of James Cameron and Dr. David Schindler, another citizen scientist (this one, however, just happens to work in my building). He published a fact-filled comment piece in the November 25th issue of Nature, revealing the urgent need for better water monitoring and the jurisdictional mess that is preventing such progress. In his words, "the fox has been left in charge of the henhouse."

 

Not to mention our controversial work in getting genetically modified animals into the food supply, and the Alberta politician too busy eating a cookie to answer questions about health care.

Torah, you may want to consider sewing a Swiss flag on your backpack for your next trip. Just sayin'.

 

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