Victoria Council Endorses the Vienna Declaration, Supports Evidence-based Drug Policies
Former RCMP Chief Superintendent, BC Health Officers Council Also Place Community Health and Safety Above the War on Drugs
Victoria, Canada – Victoria City councillors will vote today to ratify their unanimous endorsement of the Vienna Declaration, a recently released document that highlights the failure of the global ‘War on Drugs’ and calls for a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
The City of Victoria voted to endorse the Vienna Declaration at its Governance and Priorities Committee meeting on September 2. With today’s ratification, Victoria will become the second city in Canada to support the Vienna Declaration, which has also been endorsed by Toronto, Ontario and over 17,000 people and organizations.
“Scientific evidence shows that drug use is a public health issue that cannot be resolved through excessive reliance on law enforcement. We require a balanced and evidence-based approach to effectively deal with the issues surrounding illicit drugs,” said Victoria Coun. and acting Deputy Mayor Philippe Lucas.
Widespread endorsement of the Vienna Declaration clearly demonstrates to policymakers and lawmakers the growing public support for an alternative to drug prohibition that is based on sound public health and scientific evidence of what works.
“We are gratified to see Victoria City Council support the development of illicit drug policies based on scientific evidence rather than the discredited, expensive and destructive War on Drugs approach,” said Dr. Evan Wood, a Canadian physician and Chair of the Vienna Declaration writing committee. “Municipalities in Canada have been hard hit by health, crime and social issues stemming from the illicit drug trade so their leadership role in advocating for evidence-based approaches is both logical and progressive.”
The Vienna Declaration (www.viennadeclaration.com) is a scientific statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of evidence based research into the development of illicit drug policies. The Vienna Declaration was the official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS conference (AIDS 2010) held in Vienna, Austria from July 18-23, 2010.
Since its launch on June 27, 2010, the Vienna Declaration has been endorsed by six Nobel Laureates, thousands of scientific experts, law enforcement leaders, and former heads of state including Fernando Henrique Cardoso (former President of Brazil), Ernesto Zedillo (former President of México) and César Gaviria (former President of Colombia).
In Canada, the declaration has been signed by five chief provincial medical health officers, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Health Officers Council of British Columbia.
Endorsement From the Health Officers Council of BC and Former RCMP Chief Superintendent, Chief Coroner
“British Columbia is known for taking progressive steps to addressing drug-related health problems,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, chair of the Health Officers Council of BC, an organization of public health physicians that has endorsed the declaration. “Future progress will require a rebalancing of efforts to ensure that prevention, treatment and harm minimization become primary policy strategies.”
In much of the world, the current approach to drug policy is ineffective and neglects proven and evidence-based interventions while pouring a massive amount of public funds and human resources into expensive and ineffective law enforcement measures. In some areas of the world, the criminalization of people who use drugs has also resulted in record incarceration rates, placing a massive burden on taxpayers.
"As a retired RCMP chief superintendent and British Columbia's former chief coroner, I have witnessed the devastating human consequences of the so-called War on Drugs," said Vince Cain, a spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "Instead of maintaining policies that lead to the needless arrest, incarceration, and sometimes death of so many of our fellow citizens, governments need to start treating substance abuse like the public health problem that it is."
”Victoria’s early endorsement of the Vienna Declaration is an important step in helping to raise awareness of effective alternatives to the war on drugs and help ensure that future drug polices take into account and reflect evidence-based research. The human and economic costs of the status quo cannot be tolerated any longer,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, the Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Chair of the AIDS 2010 conference and past President of the International AIDS Society (IAS).
The adoption of the Vienna Declaration’s recommendations among high-level policymakers at the local, national, and international levels will be tracked by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, founded by Dr. Wood. Should additional policy-makers or councils wish to endorse the Vienna Declaration they are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vienna Declaration was drafted by an international team of scientists and drug policy experts. It was initiated by the IAS, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Those wishing to sign on may visit www.viennadeclaration.com, where the full text of the declaration, along with a list of authors, is available. The two-page declaration references 28 reports, describing the scientific evidence documenting the effectiveness of public health approaches to drug policy and the negative consequences of approaches that criminalize drug users.