Fatal drug overdoses climb in Canada’s capital
On International Overdose Awareness Day, Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites and Drug Users Advocacy League will challenge Ottawa’s political leaders for their lack of action to prevent fatal drug overdoses. Community members will gather at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street on Aug. 31 from 11:30am-12:30pm to advocate for better overdose prevention and to challenge stigma.
When Mayor Jim Watson proclaimed Aug. 31 International Overdose Awareness Day in 2013, he recognized that Ottawa was losing one citizen every 11 days to drug overdose. This year the Mayor will be acknowledging a death every eight days in his city. The mayor has never attended International Overdose Awareness Day.
An estimated 45 people died from an overdose in Ottawa in 2014. At Insite, Canada’s first supervised injection site, not a single person has died on site from an overdose – and fatal overdoses in the vicinity of Insite have dropped by a third. Health-care professionals at SIS can intervene in overdoses immediately and encourage safer drug use outside of the facility.
Montreal and Toronto’s public health authorities are currently pursuing supervised injection services, while Ottawa Public Health has only recently recognized that they may be useful. Drug Users Advocacy League, an Ottawa collective of people who use drugs and their allies will be presenting consumer demands including SIS in Ottawa.
This year the Mayor’s proclamation states “We recognize the value of every human life and we honour those lost by discussing the harms associated with drug consumption, the risk of overdose and proven strategies to avoid preventable death and injury.” Hopefully Mayor Watson will live up to these words and recognize the significant evidence in support of SIS. If not, the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa will continue to raise awareness and prompt further local action.