Harm Reduction

Although it’s far from a new concept, “Harm Reduction” has come into vogue, particularly around music festivals and substance abuse. Some recent examples:

• 80 people were sent to hospital and a woman died of a suspected drug overdose at the Boonstock Music Festival in Penticton, BC;

• Man found dead in his tent at the Pemberton Music Festival. Exact cause not confirmed, but foul play ruled out;

• Some drug overdoses, but no fatalities, at Kelowna Center of Gravity Festival;

• 13 people hospitalised, 2 dead after using “party drugs” at the Toronto VELD Music Festival.

These reports have brought Harm Reduction to the fore for festival organizers. The Globe and Mail recently reported on the considerable Harm Reduction strategies employed at the recent Shambhala Music Festival near Nelson, BC.

Not surprisingly, Harm Reduction has its critics. They argue that focusing on reduction, not prevention, degrades our social mores. Thus, we’re condoning (and encouraging) these illegal/risky behaviours.

Interestingly, our article on distracted driving “Is it Worth It?” bears many similarities to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s approach on Harm Reduction. The Centre claims that by focusing on distracted driver prevention, the law is actually increasing it. By prohibiting cellphones while driving forces drivers to use their phones surreptitiously or in “stealth mode”— texting with the phone below the dashboard—which increases distraction.

The article suggests a “multi-pronged effort” makes more sense. It argues that punishment should not be the first resort to counteracting distracted driving. Education, automobile safety technology, and road design are much better solutions.

Without debating the merits, the article raises a number of questions. Is a Harm Reduction policy approach a better solution to distracted driving than fines, penalties and demerit points? Would a Harm Reduction policy approach encourage cell phone use while driving? Is prohibition working?

How unfortunate that the answers to important issues are so frequently clouded in grey rather than standing out clearly in black and white.

What do you think?


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Einfeld Law is a highly knowledgeable and experienced BC personal injury law firm specializing in motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, and other negligence claims involving bodily injury. We have successfully litigated many ICBC and other insurance claims, including out of province, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury, whiplash, soft tissue injury, and all other bodily injury claims. We have collected millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. We never act for ICBC or other insurance companies.

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