Today in Politics

I love the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). Today the SCC ruled that closing Vancouver’s supervised injection site would be a violation of peoples’ Charter rights. Basically, it would deny addicts access to heath care that helps keep them safe while they inject the drugs to which they are addicted. More importantly, Insite offers its clients a way out of drug addiction, if they choose. And really, what it all comes down to is choice. Just because people on Vancouver’s DTES are addicted to drugs does not mean that they are lesser citizens of the country. They have a right to appropriate health care for them. If that means that a nurse watches them shoot up to make sure they do it safely and that they do not contract blood-borne diseases then so be it. Apparently the number of new HIV infections among injection drug users is down as are serious infections and other diseases. In spite of the research and the evidence of the positive outcomes of Insight, the Harper Cons do not believe that drug addicts are really people, entitled to appropriate medical care. Luckily for us, the SCC does not have such ideology influencing their decisions.

Has anyone been listening to our Premier Christy Clark lately? I think she is a Stepford-Premier. She is always so happy, happy, happy! And what is making her so happy you ask? Well, it would seem that she is really, really optimistic. Optimistic about what one might ask? Well, we are not really sure. It would seem that she is sure good times are just around the corner. Today speaking to the Union of BC Municipalities convention she gave this speech in which she announced 30 million dollars to help municipalities with recreation facilities. Seriously, we are going to build more swimming pools and arenas when children go to school hungry, without proper clothing and without school supplies. Did she not see the coverage Carrie Gelson received when she sounded the alarm about the state of children in inner-city schools? While recreation facilities are important to communities as they give people a place to exercise and socialize, I suspect most people would be quite happy to see that 30 million go into fixing the problems Carrie Gelson highlighted. One has to ask where starving, ill-clothed children fit in to Christy Clark’s ‘families first’ agenda?

Still on our ebullient premier, it would seem she does not really have control over her ministers. This became apparent today when Mike de Jong mused about charging smokers higher health premiums. Of course this is a complete non-starter as it would be a slippery slope. It is the same thing as when doctors muse about charging an obesity-tax on fat people. The argument, as far as it goes with smokers, is that smoking is a choice and therefore smokers should pay for the health care they are doing to need when they get cancer. Smokers already pay more taxes than non-smokers through the taxes governments collect on the sale of cigarettes. What is bizarre in all of this is a senior minister floating this idea without getting the approval of the premier. Perhaps there are cracks in the veneer?

Oh, and Clifford Olsen is dead. I hope the families of his victims get some measure of peace knowing that he is finally dead and can no longer apply for parole.

AIDS and my Best Friend from High School

As I was cooking dinner tonight, I put on some music. It is not often that I am alone in the house and feel like I can blast music. I was going along until ‘Leather and Lace’ by Stevie Nicks and Don Henley came on. I was immediately transported back to being about 15 or 16 and sitting in Andy O’Connor’s bedroom listening to this song over and over again.

I had met Andy at the Alternative High School I attended. I lived in a group home one street over from him. A friendship developed very quickly and we soon became inseparable. We would sit in his bedroom and blast music until his mother nearly had a coronary. Andy did not have a very good relationship with his parents. He had just returned home after announcing he was gay and moving in with his gay lover Steve at 15 years old. Somehow they convinced him to come back home and finish high school. Regardless, Andy and Steve had broken up.

Andy’s house was always a minefield. His mother was quite moody and a little difficult to deal with. But when we could we listen to music. Andy introduced me to the B-52s and a campy song called ‘Jet-Boy, Jet-Girl.’ We rode the bus to school together and hung out in the ‘smoking’[1] room together. We did a lot of things we shouldn’t have done and he introduced me to a much harsher reality of what drugs can do to people. We also did crazy-ass fun things like tubing down the Bow River in the summer in Calgary.

During the time we were close the first few cases of AIDS had come to light. We talked about it a lot and Andy had decided that he would always use condoms when having sex. I remember how scared we were about this new disease that just seemed to target gay men. We didn’t understand it nor did we know what to believe. All we really understood was that getting the virus was a death sentence.

Our friendship went the way many high school relationships do. He had moved to Ontario and was living with someone and I did Katimavik and lived in Toronto for a couple of years. We kept in touch after a fashion but only because I maintained the contact. Then I started my BA at the University of Calgary. Then Andy came back to Calgary.

When I finally got to see him again he was a much paler version of himself. Andy had AIDS. Andy had a really virulent strain of the virus that attacked his brain. He began to lose cognitive function and he became very difficult to be with. I tried nonetheless. I would take food over to him and sit with him.

Andy died the day I graduated from the University of Calgary. I was devastated. His family opted not to have a funeral. Many families did this in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. They never said what he died from but those of us who knew him knew the truth.

Now when I hear ‘Leather and Lace,’ I have really good memories of Andy and I singing along to the parts. We could both sort of sing so it never sounded bad. It was always just one more time…

[1] This was an entranceway between two sets of doors at the school. What is bizarre is that we were even allowed to smoke there!