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Photo Essay

'We Refuse to Wait Any Longer'

Victoria harm reduction activists march, launch their own needle exchange.

By Andrew MacLeod and Pete Rockwell 4 Jun 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here. Pete Rockwell is a photojournalist based in Victoria.

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Marchers to the City of Victoria and public health officials: "Read the research!"

It's been a year since Victoria's needle exchange closed. Activists going by the name Harm Reduction Victoria marked the day by marching through downtown then setting up their own guerrilla exchange.

"The Guerrilla Needle Exchange will be open every evening for an indefinite period of time, collecting and distributing safer drug use supplies in our community from a fixed site," said a statement from the group. "Since Victoria's only fixed-site needle exchange was closed... thousands of the most marginalized and stigmatized members of our community have been denied access to an essential health service."

Without access to clean needles, it said, people's lives are at risk. "Harm Reduction Victoria refuses to stand silently watching a public health crisis escalate," it said. "We refuse to wait any longer for our public health officials, municipal government delegates and the provincial government to take action."

Besides a fixed exchange, the group wants a safe consumption site for Victoria, which would be a first for the city. They also want the people operating mobile exchanges to be allowed to distribute needles in a large section of downtown they agreed last year to stay away from.

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