05/21/2013 09:56 EDT | Updated 07/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Drug Users Sue Abbotsford Over Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw

Advocates for needle exchanges are suing the City of Abbotsford, saying the city's bylaw which bans harm reduction centres violates basic human rights.

The city, located in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver, has a 2005 zoning bylaw that prevents methadone treatment clinics, needle exchanges and supervised injection sites from setting up.

"It's become difficult for people to have clean needles," said Scott Bernstein, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, who is launching a lawsuit and a human rights complaint on behalf of three illicit drug users.

"People who use drugs are actually entitled to the same level of health care as everybody else."

The Fraser Health Authority asked the city to lift the ban in 2010, but the motion failed to pass. A public consultation was held earlier this year, but no decision has been announced.

- Abbotsford reconsiders ban on harm reduction facilities

Bernstein says he hopes the lawsuit will prompt action for some 500 injection drug users in Abbotsford, whose lives are at risk because the bylaw has prevented clean needle distribution and other live-saving public health programs in the city.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman declined to comment.

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