How long would it have taken for Corbella to have gone to the Insite web site and learned more about the services, the clients, the lives saved - five minutes, maybe? Ah, but she didn't want facts. She wanted to make her very strange case that Cory Monteith overdosed because he was in Vancouver, at a hotel close to the "cancerous lesion" that is the Downtown Eastside, and that he might still be alive today if he'd had the good sense to visit a different Canadian city.
Reasoning that the Glee actor surely wouldn't have brought drugs across the border, Corbella writes that he either bought them in Vancouver or "had a gofer do it for him by visiting InSite..." Can she possibly believe that a project as controversial as one that helps people with heroin addictions inject safely would risk it all by selling heroin to anyone, let alone a celebrity's "gofer?"
"Proponents of safe injection sites argue that such harm-reduction strategies save lives and that’s inarguably true. After all, if an injection drug user overdoses in the safe injection site, then a nurse is on hand to offer assistance and call an ambulance. This has happened numerous times," writes Corbella. (True, Licia - 1,418 times to be precise. But then, you would have known that if you'd visited InSite's web site.)
"But no one ever asks how many people have died of drug overdoses who use the safe injection site as a legally safe place to procure drugs," she goes on to say.
Well, Licia, that's because you can't buy drugs at InSite, legally or otherwise. And while I hate to belabour a point, you would have known that had you bothered to do one damn bit of research into any of this.
Sometime in the 1990s, it appears that Corbella met a sex worker in Toronto who was unable to find heroin one night. Corbella has concluded from this incident that this must mean drugs are very difficult to buy in any city other than Vancouver.
"Would Cory Monteith still be alive had he been visiting Halifax, Toronto or Calgary instead of Vancouver? In my view, it’s highly likely," she writes.
Were Licia Corbella just some wacky blogger throwing her wildly uninformed opinions around, no big deal. There are a million of them out there. We're all going to have to be much more careful about where we get our information from, because we're falling headfirst into a scandal-sheet world where anyone with an internet connection can represent themselves as a "news source."
But Corbella is the editorial page editor for the Calgary Herald. I stand on guard for freedom of expression, but that's not what we're talking about here. This is about a disturbing level of factual error. It scares me to think that the editorial page editor for a major daily newspaper wrote something so careless, sloppy and inaccurate, and scares me even more that her bosses just stepped out of the way and let it run.
As for the Downtown Eastside being a "cancerous lesion," I was there in April at the Army and Navy sale and was struck by how much better the neighbourhood looked. May Corbella and her family never have to experience the poverty, addiction, disability and trauma that have created the DTES, but in the meantime she'd do well to open up those half-shut eyes of hers and see the cheery, resilient community that exists against all odds on those tough streets.