Readers respond to "Canada's Safe Haven for Junkies" by Mark Follman, and "Black Copters Over Oregon" by Bill Donahue.

By Salon Staff

Published September 11, 2003 8:00PM (EDT)

[Read "Canada's Safe Haven for Junkies," by Mark Follman.]

Thank you for the excellent story on the drug treatment/harm-reduction strategy in East Vancouver.

Many Americans might be puzzled by some of the things described in the article: Businessmen in suits walking on the same streets with junkies, a former mayor who lives just blocks from crime-ridden East Vancouver calling the American Drug War "bullshit"; there just seems to be a general mingling of the haves with the have-nots. Americans I know would ask: "How is it possible for the middle class, the poor, junkies and a former mayor to live just blocks away from each other?" After all, wasn't much of Detroit abandoned because of middle-class fear of rampant drug usage there? Isn't Harlem not the best place to raise your kid? And South-Central L.A. a ghetto to be avoided at all costs?

Something is missing in Vancouver and most other Canadian cities, which seems to have become an essential ingredient south of the border: fear. That's not to say Canadians aren't afraid, but there isn't the same intense fear and suspicion here in Vancouver that may Americans feel in their own cities. I'm not sure why this is so, but I do know that when you are not afraid of your neighbor, you can turn to her and ask: "How can I help?" rather than whisking her away to jail.

Today, a homeless person stopped to help me get a large box into my car. Me, a middle-class guy. Him, a person who has probably been living on the streets for years. We finished, and when I started to offer him some money he said, "Not necessary, just glad to help," and then wandered away to his daily panhandling routine.

I'm an ex-pat from the States who now lives in Vancouver. When I look south, I sometimes wonder why my good friends in the States haven't embraced the Canadian values of community.

-- Ron Fussell

Speaking as a Vancouverite, and as a fairly conservative person, I think that I can speak for the overwhelming majority of the population that voted Mayor Larry Campbell into office -- that our attitude is the same as his: The status quo is not working and "If it doesn't work, we'll try something else."

Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result?

-- William Rolston

I am still somewhat undecided on the idea of safe-injection sites for hard-drug users, as is being experimented with in Canada, but I certainly support the actual experiment.

You cannot argue against cold, hard facts and the experiment will provide those: Does it lead to an increase of hard-drug use? A decrease? No change? If either of the latter two prove true, then it is good, even in the case of "no change," as it is certain to reduce the risk of spreading disease.

The topic of illicit-drug decriminalization -- or even legalization -- is irrationally heated in the U.S. It will take more reasonable countries like the Netherlands and Canada to lead the way with actual experiments rather than moral-based ideology (aka U.S. policy). In any case, the most laughable comment of all was that of U.S. drug czar John Walters concerning the Canadian experiment: "It's immoral to allow people to suffer and die from a disease we know how to treat." The "treatment" he refers to is incarceration.

Go Canada. Do all that the U.S. is too fearful to do. Gay marriage, decriminalization of drugs, the whole nine yards. Watch the Right in the U.S. go nuts when all of it likely does not cause the collapse of civil Canadian society. Then U.S. conservatives will undoubtedly argue that it is all doing harm and "evil," even if it leads to a better Canadian society -- more free, more relaxed, more peaceful, less crime-laden.

-- Praedor Atrebates

Ever since America's so-called war on drugs began, it has been fraught with bold objectives and even bolder failures. To calculate the failure that this war has been will lead into the billions of dollars. But still, other options are dismissed for potentially perpetuating drug use.

The idea of decriminalizing marijuana, like many nations are doing or have done, is one option. Imagine the potential if the government were to regulate the sale of marijuana and put all of the proceeds to the war on hard drugs -- or, heaven forbid, education and health reform.

The U.S. government has declared an all-out war on drugs, but when was the last time you read about large drug busts on college campuses? Having just graduated from a liberal arts college, I can tell you drug use among the educated (and heaven forbid, the educated white) youth is staggering.

Before we cast stones at our neighbors to the north, I think that we should be able to stand firm with a successful program of our own -- which, by no means, do we have.

-- Richard Zucker

[Read "Black Copters Over Oregon," by Bill Donahue.]

Bill Donahue's thesis that the Bush Administration started the Oregon wildfires is an interesting one, but one with supporting evidence that could be called extremely tenuous at best. At this point, it's nothing but blind, albeit worrying, speculation, but Donahue seems to present it almost in the terms of established fact. His interviews were almost exclusively with leftists and enviros, and the one logging type he interviewed, he showed as a loon.

I could almost picture this piece as a parody of one-sided, conclusion-predetermined shoddy reporting. I'm not saying that George Bush didn't set those fires. I'm also not saying there are no aliens on Mars. I am saying that without better evidence, there's no reason anyone claiming those things should be taken seriously.

-- Zach Withers

Thank you for having the guts to do what, so far, nobody else has: bring into the open a discussion that is consuming much of rural Oregon right now. As a resident of this area it is absolutely heart-breaking to witness the destruction that continues this moment. This article was very well done and helps bring out a question worth exploring: "Would the same man who lied to the world about the threat in Iraq really burn a large chunk of wilderness just to advance his own agenda?"

For my part, he's killed thousands of people to advance his private agenda, so why would he stop at trees?

-- Bob Brown

Although I am no fan of George W. Bush and look forward to a regime change at home next year, I also have little regard for the conspiracy theories associating the Booth and Bear fires in central Oregon directly with him. In fact, I was on a boat on Big Lake just a few miles south of where the Booth fire erupted, and managed to take a sequence of photos which clearly show exactly when and where that fire began.

There were no black helicopters anywhere nearby (which are hard to miss, as they are so noisy -- plenty of them were around a few days later when Bush was actually in the area). It is also unlikely that the "evildoers" would start a fire this way in broad daylight right next to the major highway between the central Willamette valley and Central Oregon.

On the other hand, it is also highly unlikely that the fire was naturally caused, as this area is crisscrossed by many popular trails with easy access to the highway. It was also weeks after any lightning activity, and a beautiful, calm, sunny day.

-- Art Boland

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------