Outrage over Calgary Herald editor blaming Vancouver for killing Cory Monteith

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In a reckless piece of journalism, the Calgary Herald’s Licia Corbella blames the city of Vancouver, its impoverished Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, and the city’s InSite safe injection facility for killing Glee star Cory Monteith. This has inflamed Vancouverites, and they took to the comments section and social media to call Corbella out for her sheer ignorance.

Corbella claims that everyone from a straight-A elementary school student to her 82-year old mom in Vancouver knows where to get drugs in the city. She makes a direct link between Monteith’s death and the Downtown Eastside and its InSite facility as it is “a five minute cab ride” from where Monteith was found dead from a heroin and alcohol overdose at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

There is so much wrong with the article, we don’t even know where to begin… As proud Vancouverites, we are obviously quite disturbed by Corbella’s column which blames the city for his death, slanders a great drug harm reduction program in the Downtown Eastside, and insinuates that the entire city is full of drug users and dealers. In essence, she would like to have you believe that Cory Monteith would not have died in any other Canadian city, except in his adopted city of Vancouver.

Here are a few “key points” written by Licia Corbella, as quoted directly from her article:

“Heck, ask virtually any informed person across the country and they’d be able to tell you that if you want to go on a seedy trip of your choosing — be it a heroin holiday or a crack cocaine carousal — just head down to East Hastings Street and you will find what you’re looking for with no risk of arrest.”

“It’s unlikely that the 31-year-old would have risked bringing hard drugs across the border from his home in the United States, so it’s safe to assume he either picked some up himself or had a gofer do it for him by visiting InSite, the government-sponsored and funded safe injection site at 139 East Hastings. The next step is easy. Wait for an injection drug user to show up, ask them to score you some heroin, grab a few clean, free needles and distilled water, and you’re set…. So the question is, if Monteith were visiting virtually any other city in Canada, would he have been able to find heroin? Would he have died? I think the likelihood is much lower.”

“Would Cory Monteith still be alive had he been visiting Halifax, Toronto or Calgary instead of Vancouver? In my view, it’s highly likely.”

Read more of her article.

 

Readers, and the comments they submitted, said it best…

Andrew Pothier: Nobody new to/visiting any city has been able to find an illegal drug, ever. The guy lived in and used drugs in Vancouver before Insite opened. Your hypothesis that he needed Insite to find drugs in a drug riddled neighbourhood is ridiculous.

Jason Zurba: yes. vancouver is the only city in the world where it is easy to find heroin. Thanks for the amazing insight into this.

Karen Ingram: My husband has relatives living in Calgary fighting drug addiction.None of them started using in Vancouver and all of them could have used a safe injection site.Corbella, would you like to know where to score some Heroin in Calgary? I could find out for you in 3 min. Oh and look twice at your friends and neighbours because only a very small percentage of users use a safe injection site and I know for a fact that drug use is rampant in your town.

Nick Routley: I can’t even believe what I just read. Are we really suggesting that Cory Monteith or some random assistant just popped over to insite and scored some Heroine? Oh, and needles are just sitting in a little tin by the door, so why not snag a few of those too? (as if they’re disposal forks at a fast food joint.) COME AAAAAAN! The people working at insite are try to save lives; you do them a great disservice by writing an inflammatory article like this.

Bex Apostoli: Even if Insite is providing a gateway for a few people to score (which has never been proven and you did not achieve that in your article), the sheer amount of lives it saves through harm reduction makes this point irrelevant. if you want to stop a drug from reaching addicts and new users, you have to cut it off at the source. Picking on a great service like Insite is an easy crutch for reactionary regressive politics.

Joseph Martin: It’s simple, InSite saves lives : “484 overdoses occurred with no fatalities”.
That’s 484 people who are alive today because of InSite. Harm Reduction WORKS. A rich celebrity addict almost certainly has better options that procuring drugs off the street from an unknown.

Lynn Good: Unbelievable assumptions here. Cory Monteith was an admitted drug user – not only when he was visiting Vancouver. His death was a sad and terrible loss, but Vancouver and InSite didn’t kill him. An addiction did. ‘Safe to assume’? Is that what the Calgary Herald pays you for – assuming? This is an example of exceptionally lazy and biased ‘journalism’ – maybe consider another line of work Ms. Corbella.

Darby Carswell: This is nothing but Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh-style garbage that is written to create outrage and attention. It has nothing to do with facts, or even this columnists’ real opinion: it is created to generate comments. Ignore this deliberate pot-stirring.

Ishmael N. Daro: I’m in shock at how stupid this column is. Just flabbergasted. You do know that a safe-injection site is just that, right? A place where you inject the drugs in a safe environment. It’s not some kind of superstore, and you sure as hell wouldn’t be able to send a “gofer” to procure drugs for you. Are you insane?

Also, you called a random on-duty cop manning the phones and when he didn’t immediately tell you where to score some smack, you decided it was virtually impossible to find heroin in a big city.

Christina Batstone: Monteith had been a drug user for a long time, including while he lived in California; it certainly wasn’t Vancouver’s fault. And let us remember that if he had used insite he would still be alive.

Leighton Mathews: He wanted to get high, period. If he hadn’t been able to get heroin, he’d probably have gotten someone to find him coke. As someone with many years experience in the music business, I can tell you that it’s easy to procure any drug, I’ve seen it happen. Your article is flawed and presumptuous and just another conservative “head in the sand” viewpoint on drugs and progressive attempts to reduce the harm they do to the community.

Toby White: “if Monteith were visiting virtually any other city in Canada, would he have been able to find heroin?” – You actually wrote that. You actually asked if a TV star would be able to get drugs in a city. What kind of idiot are you? The useful type, I suppose.

“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” – Research is hard so I will just say that ‘no one ever asks.’

“But an anecdote, dating back many years now, proves this wrong.” – Read this out loud to your journalism colleagues and watch the looks on their faces.

Victoria Klassen: This would be laughable – IF it was a self-published flyer printed in Comic sans with 5 pt margins and a picture of Jesus illuminated by a ray of sunshine coming through the clouds, and it was handed to me outside the drugstore by an earnest-looking but wild-eyed middle-aged man wearing a stained shirt.

Jess Hassard: This made me so mad, but thank you for sharing. Although I haven’t lived in Van for about 9 years, you can’t just go to the DTES and ask someone for heroine. Has she even walked the neighborhood? Hastings has changed so much. And unless she can back up her claims of being able to score using connections at insite or where Montieth got his drugs from, she should shut her face. Especially when making laughable comparisons to other cities (language barrier could make it hard to score drugs in montreal). More importantly, she doesn’t understand addiction and does a great disservice to those who try. Newspaper columnists are on their way out because of this uninformed, self-indulgent garbage. Sorry for the rant…

Amanda Johnson: This is the worst researched article I have read in a very long time. Do you honestly believe that your ONE anecdotal story is good enough to disprove massive and overwhelming medical evidence that shows InSite’s harm reduction programs are both valuable and effective? Do you think that the Supreme Court of Canada, whose unanimous ruling allows InSite to continue operating, didn’t do their due diligence for this case?

A quote from one of the justices on the bench: “Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation,” the ruling said, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/09/29/bc-insite-supreme-court-ruling-advancer.html)

Russ Bastone: I agree with the other posts here that this is a incredibly poorly researched and ignorant article. There have been many studies on Insight, not one of them shows any link to new users starting because of Insight. All of them say it saves lives, increases access to drug rehab and reduces both the financial and human cost of drug addiction. It treats addiction as the health issue it is, not a moral issue. To claim that you can only get heroin at Insight in Vancouver and no where else in Canada may be the stupidest thing ever written.

Catherine Ballachey: Wait a second, lady. You don’t BUY heroin at InSite. You buy it elsewhere and InSite is a safe place to use the drug under supervision and gradually wean yourself off. Heroin is not available for purchase at InSite. Period. Do your research before you assume. Basics of journalism, no?

Jason Seghers: A rich celebrity, based in Vancouver for many years and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, needed to go to the safe injection site to score in Vancouver? There’s no way that I just read that, there has to be some sort of publishing error.

Sean McQuillan: I understand Licia left Vancouver in the 80’s but I am unsure if she has set foot in this city enough since then to create an informed opinion. Her article relies on vague notions and conjecture, which I guess you can do in an opinion piece, but having an unresearched opinion is lazy and insulting to those it affects.

Additionally I would personally love to see you go into the DTES and ask for heroin to test your theory. If you have unlimited money and no common sense I am sure it would work out just fine, but that can be said for anywhere in the entire world.
 

CKNW 980’s Simi Sara takes down Licia Corbella in a radio interview


 

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Featured image: Danielle Bauer

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