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BCCLA Disappointment In Ruling Against Handing Out Safe Needles In Prison

Vancouver/Coast Salish Territories – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) said on Monday that they are disappointed that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissal of the application in Simons et al v. Canada, a constitutional challenge brought by former prisoner Steven Simons, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and other community organizations against the Government of Canada over its failure to provide prisoners with meaningful access to sterile injection equipment in federal prisons.  

The BCCLA says this decision ignores the reality that the majority of vulnerable prisoners in need of sterile injection equipment are still being denied access.  

Their release went on to state:

Injection drug use in prisons is a reality, and the availability of sterilized injection equipment helps prevent the sharing of needles and the spread of infectious diseases amongst drug users. Prison needle exchange programs (PNEPs) are a vital harm reduction tool essential to the health of numerous vulnerable prisoners.  Despite this fact, the PNEP program introduced by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) in 2018 has to date only been implemented in 11 out of 43 federal prisons.

The BCCLA intervened in this case to argue that the government has a constitutional duty to implement an accessible prison needle exchange program in all federal prisons.  Preventing prisoners from taking appropriate safety measures to protect their health infringes their Charter rights. The Court dismissed the applicants’ argument that the current PNEP plan is unconstitutional, stating that it was premature in light of the fact that a “good faith PNEP is being rolled out”.

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