SCC Rules on Vancouver's Safe Injection Site

Date Closed

September 30, 2011

Lead Office


On September 30, 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal Minister of Health must exempt Insite from provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  Insite is a facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.  It permits people addicted to drugs to inject illicit drugs under medical supervision, and provides other medical and social services.   Between 2003 and 2008, the Minister allowed Insite to operate legally under a statutory exemption.  When the Minister advised Insite that its exemption would not be renewed, Insite commenced an action in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.  The litigation eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously held that a refusal by the Minister to renew Insite’s exemption would breach section 7 of the Canadian Charter of the Rights and Freedoms.

McCarthy Tétrault LLP represented the intervenors, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, International Harm Reduction Association and CACTUS Montréal, with a team led by Michael Feder and Angela Juba.