Food for Thought: Insights on Insite

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada released its judgement in the case of Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society, 2011 SCC 44, [2011] 3 S.C.R. 134. This case is often referred to as the Insite case, as it had to do with the operation of Vancouver’s Insite supervised injection facility (which is run by PHS Community Services Society). At issue was whether the federal government had the authority to revoke an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that allowed Insite to operate.

You can find the text of the judgement here.

The Court’s decision was controversial, and many argued that it reflected a power struggle between the government and the judiciary. Newspaper articles written in response to the decision debated whether and to what extent it represented ‘judicial activism’.

This week’s Food for Thought post requires you to engage with the Supreme Court judgement (linked above), as well as two short articles:

Makin, Kirk (2011). “Landmark Insite decision threatens peace between judges and legislators”, The Globe and Mail, October 10, 2011. 

McKay-Panos, Linda (2011). “SCC Wrongly Accused of ‘Judicial Activism’ in Recent Insite Case,, October 31, 2011.

Food for Thought:

Write a post (following the guidelines in the course syllabus) that addresses the following questions:

  • Which school of thought that we have studied so far best explains the Supreme Court of Canada’s reasoning in the Insite decision? Your response should briefly introduce and describe the school of thought and explain how it applies to the case. Be specific, and remember that readers of this blog may not be familiar with the material you are discussing.
  • The articles by Makin and McKay-Panos discuss the Insite case as an example of tension between ideology and social science evidence in Canadian law. What does this mean?

If you wish to prepare a post in response to this week’s ‘food for thought’ post, it must be submitted (at any time) before class on September 30.


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