Randolf Richardson (Zhang Wen Dao)

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City of Vancouver unfairly blamed for Heroin abuse fatality

Friday, July 19, 2013 by Randolf Richardson 張文道

On July 19, 2013 on CBC RadioOne's On The Coast program, Licia Corbella, a columnist and editorial page editor for the Calgary Herald, was interviewed regarding an article she wrote about Heroin fatalities where she uses "counterfactual reasoning" to hold the City of Vancouver responsible for the death of a famous person who was addicted to Heroin.  Here is the text of my reaction to the interview:

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Today's interview with Licia Corbella was interesting because it provided locals in the Greater Vancouver area with perspective on what some outsiders think of us.  In this particular interview featuring Mrs. Corbella's fallaciously flawed attempt to shift the burden of responsibility onto the City of Vancouver for the death of Cory Monteith (a famous actor, singer, and drug addict), CBC interviewer Stephen Quinn also asked what I considered to be excellent questions that intelligently challenged her conclusions.

The justification Mrs. Corbella used to blame Vancouver for the cause of Cory Monteith's death was dependent on incomplete "counterfactual reasoning," which is really just an after-the-fact risk assessment.  I felt that Mrs. Corbella ignored the real problem in favour of identifying a scapegoat -- in this case the City of Vancouver, one of the few cities who are, as she unintentionally implied, progressively trying to resolve some of the problems that heroin addiction entails, and without always throwing people in jail.

(Although I do have mixed feelings about the InSite program, overall I'm pleased that our government is trying to protect and help citizens who are struggling with serious addictions, and I applaud the City of Vancouver for upholding the basic fundamental reason for the government's existence -- to serve and protect the populace.)

Obviously, Cory Monteith's real problem was his addiction to a dangerous substance, and it was his own personal decisions to continue to abuse drugs and alcohol that unfortunately lead to his death ... decisions that he most likely wouldn't have chosen if he wasn't an addict.  Although I'm now using "counterfactual reasoning," my thinking is both appropriate and logical because I'm addressing a direct causality rather than attempting to advance a minor correlation that is easily refuted...

Mrs. Corbella's arguments appear to be flawed for a number of reasons, starting with these three:

  1. Her counterfactual reasoning that "he wouldn't have died if he wasn't in Vancouver" is incomplete and misleading because Vancouver isn't the only city where people can obtain illegal drugs.  In addition to that, it seems reasonable to me that anyone who is addicted to a substance will be more inclined to choose travel destinations where they believe that the substances they desire will be obtainable.
  2. Her accusation that "everyone from teetotalling old ladies with blue hair to a straight-A student in elementary school -- all know if you want hard, illicit drugs, just go to the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and heroin will be as easy to acquire as chewing gum" is a fallacious ad hominem attack that unfairly targets young children and the elderly as it incorrectly compares the availability of illegal drugs to that of chewing gum.  In addition to the fact that many straight-A students, especially those from Kindergarten to Grade 3 for example, most likely don't know what heroin is, it should also be obvious that heroin is not as easy to acquire as chewing gum for the simple fact that every law-abiding pharmacy anywhere in Vancouver (including the Downtown Eastside) will not sell Heroin to anyone without a proper prescription.  Chewing gum, on the other hand, is often within easy reach for almost everyone, including elementary school children regardless of their grades, and typically does not require a prescription of any kind.
  3. Her use of anecdotes, which she relied on to support some of her arguments that seemed to imply a public consensus, doesn't satisfy her "burden of proof" due to the absence of medical and scientific journal references to relevant credible studies or statistical analysis papers.

Although I do favour Licia Corbella's suggestion for study into the InSite program's effectiveness because it is such an important social health matter, and although I support her right to express her opinions freely as per our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I do not agree with her less-than-favourable view that the City of Vancouver was a major contributor to the cause of Cory Monteith's death because I find that she has failed to adequately support her claims.

Randolf Richardson 張文道
Beautiful British Columbia, Canada

Media coverage

Here is a list of links to the relevant articles (the first two articles are what inspired my response):

If you'd like to contact me to share your perspective, I'd be delighted regardless of whether you agree with me.  My contact information is available on my contact page.

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