by Susan Martinuk. July 19, 2013.
At 31 years of age, talented actor and musician Cory Monteith was at the top of his game. He was the leading man in the hit television program Glee, had recently completed two movies that had allowed him to expand his acting repertoire by portraying an adult in very adult situations, and (reportedly) was about to marry his longtime girlfriend and co-star, Lea Michele.
More than that, he was fresh from a rehab stint and had supposedly beaten the addiction demons that stemmed from his dysfunctional youth.
In a 2011 interview with Parade magazine, he talked about his “serious problem” with drugs, said he “used anything and everything, as much as possible” and admitted that he was lucky to still be alive.
But his luck ran out last Saturday and, despite spending the night in a luxury Vancouver hotel, he died as most addicts do — alone.
The British Columbia coroner’s office said that he died from “a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol,” and there was no evidence to suggest his death was anything other than a “most tragic accident.”
Most tragic, indeed.
Monteith now joins an unfortunate group of entertainers who struggled with addiction before succumbing to an ignoble death from drug use (Whitney Houston, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse and John Belushi, to name a very few).
As usual, there have been condolences, accolades, vigils and innumerable ponderings about what his death means for Glee, his fans and to our culture. An editorial in the Vancouver Province suggested that his death served as a “warning” about taking/mixing drugs, provided a “teaching moment for parents,” and raised the question about how society views drug use — “as a crime or a treatable illness.”
It’s a given that his death serves as both a warning and a touchstone for parents to talk to their kids. But the third point (about how society views drug use) is the typical red herring that appears in Vancouver drug conversations. It suggests that saying “no” to drugs is a lack of compassion and hints that we still live in the days when gun-toting cops kick down doors in the hopes of finding someone using, or possessing, illicit drugs.
In the movies, yes. In Vancouver, no. In real-life B.C., enforcement focuses on dealers and gangs, not users.
A blog (www.beatcopdiary.vpd.ca) by a Vancouver policeman who works in the Downtown Eastside, an area notorious for its high population of drug addicts, reflects this well. He admits that the courts are too backlogged for drug charges, that jail is no cure for an addict and that Crown prosecutors won’t waste their time charging users on the streets.
One blog tells of finding an addict sitting near the doorway for Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site (where needles, tourniquets and spoons are provided so users can inject and cook their drugs in a clean, supervised area), with a loaded syringe and tourniquet on his arm. He couldn’t be bothered walking another 20 feet to the facility. The police officers took him to Insite’s doorway, saying he should be shooting up there. Seeing the cops, an Insite staff member rushed out, told the officers they were out of line by interfering with the addict getting his fix, wrote down their badge numbers and left — without offering any help to the addict.
This is the real situation in Vancouver, home to the only legal safe-injection site in North America. Governments pay $3 million per year in operating costs so staff can ignore users on the street, while teaching their own clients to use heroin and giving them the tools to do so.
There are plenty of people — including some drug users — who believe that Insite exacerbates drug use by making it more convenient. Yet, Vancouver’s drug focus continues to be on assisting drug users in getting a fix, leaving little political will or cash for drug treatment or prevention programs.
Knowing the easy Vancouver drug culture is germane to understanding the hypocrisy that underlies the Vancouver media’s response to, and society’s shock at, Monteith’s death.
A report on the website TMZ (where reporters monitor every insignificant move made by celebrities) features an inside look at Monteith’s relationship with Michele, saying that she was known to be a “steadying, sobering influence” on him when they were together in the United States, but “when Cory went to Canada … all bets were off.”
Why? Because drugs are readily available in Vancouver; there is little chance of being charged with possession or drug use and, even though someone like Monteith would never utilize its services, there is a government-funded safe-injection site to help new and experienced users through the process. It’s a drug user’s paradise.
No wonder Monteith died in Vancouver, where nothing exists to tell an addict to stop using.
No wonder Michele was so afraid of his trips to Canada.
We can chatter about Monteith’s death being a teachable moment for parents. But it should also be a sober, teachable moment for a society that so proudly utilizes its resources to keep addicts high and on the road to death.
Source: The Calgary Herald