Call renewed for safe injection sites in Ottawa

The call for a safe injection site for drug users in Ottawa was renewed Monday.

It's International Overdose Awareness Day and members of the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites and Drug Users Advocacy League gathered at the Human Rights Monument to raise awareness about the issue.

Set on the monument were 45 pairs of shoes, one pair to represent each of the people who were estimated to have died from an overdose in Ottawa last year.

Ottawa paramedic Paul Morneau said that number just begins to scratch the surface.

"There was a lot more people impacted by overdoses," said Morneau. "Directly paramedics responded to over 2,600 calls for overdoses last year and we used Naloxone on those calls that were suspected of being opiate in nature."

Marilou Gagnon, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Nursing said she would like to see a safe injection site created in Ottawa.

"We know that pushing drug use underground further increases the risk of overdose and death," said Gagnon. "We know this. Prevention starts with creating a safe space for people who use drugs and when that space is provided overdose and overdose-related deaths decrease dramatically. That's why we have seen no overdose-related deaths in any of the supervised injection sites across the globe."

Jennifer Bigelow has overdosed three times and said a safe injection site would make a big difference.

"Maybe I could have had help instead of being under for like four, five hours on my last overdose," she said. "Maybe there could have been help for me then. I'm lucky to have survived it. I count my blessings every day that I survived it, but many, many don't survive it."

Both Mayor Jim Watson and Police Chief Charles Bordeleau have spoken out against safe injection sites in the past.

Those attending the rally are also calling for the province to give all paramedics the power to administer Naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioids in overdoses.

Right now only advanced care paramedics can administer the drug.

By Alison Sandor
Source: 580 CFRA