In a move that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described as "disappointing", the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that attempts by the Federal government to shut down Insite, Canada's only safe injection site, violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedom. Writing on behalf of her eight colleagues, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin has stated that "Insite is effective in reducing the risk of death and disease, and has no negative impact on the legitimate criminal law objectives of the federal government". Jutice McLachlin further added that failure to allow Insite to remain open would threaten the health of those injection drug users depending on medical services provided at the facility and actually undermine the purpose of the federal drug law, which includes public health as one of its mandates. The ruling upholds a 2008 decision by British Colombia's Supreme Court in allowing Insite to continue operating in Vancouver's downtown core. Still, the Supreme Court stressed that their decision "is not a licence for injection drug users to possess drugs wherever and whenever they wish. Nor is it an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a 'safe injection facility'".
First opened in 2003, , Insite is North America's first legal supervised injection site based on a harm reduction model for minimizing the health risks associated with unsafe drug use. By providing Vancouver's downtown addicts with a safe site for injecting drugs, harm reduction advocates have stressed the importance of helping addicts avoid diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. While operating under a special exemption to federal drug legislation, the safe injection site has long been a target of conservative critics and the Federal government which has threatened staff and patrons with prosecution.
News of the decision was greeted with wild celebration by hundreds of supporters who were gathered outside the facility. Cheers, hugging, and horn honks by vehicles passing by outside the Hastings Street location erupted after the ruling was announced at 7 am, PST. Despite his own stated opposition, Prime Minister Harper has stated that the Federal government will comply with the ruling. Although research has consistently shown the health benefits of safe injection sites such as Insite, conservative opposition groups have opposed their opening in other North American cities. In agreeing to accept the Supreme Court ruling, Prime Minister Harper has refused to speculate on the possibility of similar safe sites being established across the country.