Letter from Mayor Robertson and Public Health Officials on the Respect for Communities Act

August 31, 2016 | Safer Communities

August 30, 2016


Dear Minister Philpott,

In the last election campaign, the Liberal party campaigned on a commitment to make public policy based on science and to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue. We were proud to see these positions taken during the campaign and welcomed a new approach to public policy in Ottawa with the election of your government.

We are writing in response to your recent comments stating that the federal government has no intention of repealing the previous Conservative government's Respect for Communities Act. This is very concerning and we urge you to reconsider.

The Respect for Communities Act is a flawed, mean-spirited and ineffective piece of legislation that only serves to marginalize our most vulnerable residents and criminalize people suffering from addiction. It was a deliberate attempt by the Conservative government to create barriers that block people from accessing life-saving harm reduction services and medical care.

The Act places onerous requirements on health care providers seeking approval from the federal government to open or continue to operate a supervised injection site. The amount of paperwork and criteria required to meet federal approval downloads thousands of dollars in costs on to health providers. In Vancouver, we can testify to Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre's success and ability to save lives and support recovery. To keep the administrative hurdles in place for establishing and maintaining these vital health services is the wrong approach.

The Act is in no way based on health science and should be repealed by your government as soon as possible. At a time when overdose deaths are surging in British Columbia and the Provincial Health Officer has declared a public health emergency regarding fentanyl, we urge you to reconsider your position and begin steps to repeal the Respect for Communities Act, so that people who need access to medical treatment can get it as soon as possible.

Thank you,


Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver 

Honourable Terry Lake, Minister of Health, Province of British Columbia 

Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Costal Health 

Maxine Davis, Executive Director, Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation 

Dr. Kerry Jang, Professor, UBC Department of Psychiatry & City Councillor, Vancouver 

Dr. Perry Kendall, Provincial Health Officer, Province of British Columbia  

Dr. Michael Krausz, UBC-Providence Leadership Chair for Addiction Research 

Katrina Pacey, Executive Director, Pivot Legal Society 

Dr. Evan Wood, Professor of Medicine, Canada Research Chair in Inner City Medicine, University of British Columbia