BC's Select Standing Committee on Health released a report last week calling for the province to fund evidence-based addiction recovery programs and expand harm reduction services.
The recommendations were part of the report, Looking Forward: Improving Rural Health Care, Primary Care, and Addictions Recovery Programs, which follows consultations that the BC Humanist Association took part in last June.
Specifically, the BC Humanist Association called on the province to end its tacit endorsement of religious based addictions recovery programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
These recommendations are a strong call to put evidence and harm reduction at the forefront of tackling substance use issues in BC. Included within this report was a recognition of the limited efficacy of abstinence-only based approaches and the need for the government to take a leadership role in supporting alternative programs.
In one paragraph, the report states that, "The Committee heard about a wide range of addiction recovery programs, both secular and non-secular in nature."
This unfortunate phrasing creates a false equivalency between inclusive, evidence-based recovery programs and rigid, dogmatic faith-based programs. It's part of our broader disappointment that the Committee didn't adopt our recommendation that the government guarantee people with substance use issues secular options.
This omission leaves vulnerable people open to religious coercion. Over the past year we've heard a growing number of stories from such people. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and ensure they receive treatment without judgment.
The BC Humanist Association is following a Human Rights Complaint against Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the BC Nurses' Union by a former nurse who lost his job after refusing to participate in a religious-based treatment program. A separate complaint was filed last year against the Interior Health Authority for requiring an employee to attend AA programming. And the Toronto AA Intergroup settled a complaint last month after it de-listed two agnostic groups.