The term “harm reduction” has been used as a label for certain policies and programs in the field of illicit drugs for many years, but there has never been a universal definition for the term or unanimous consensus on how the term should be used. Some proponents argue that harm reduction must be a movement that challenges traditional drug laws, while others believe that harm reduction should chiefly be a public health approach that aims to improve the overall health of drug users. Some scholars hail harm reduction for taking an amoral and value-neutral position
towards drug use, while others criticize it for devaluing human rights and perpetuating the marginalization of drug users. Drawing on Foucault’s framework of governmentality, Petersen and Lupton’s (1996) concept of the “new public health,” and Goffman’s (1963) theories on stigma, this research investigates the types of claims and arguments that InSite—Canada’s only supervised injection site and perhaps its most recognized harm reduction program—uses in its
website and press releases to characterize and justify its services. Three news articles from The Vancouver Sun are also examined for a comparison of the complexities and diverse viewpoints that often arise in descriptions and defenses of harm reduction, supervised injection service, and illicit drug use.