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Supervised injection site proponents push on despite Harper’s opposition

Supporters of supervised drug-injection sites, such as Vancouver’s Insite, are keeping a cautious eye on the federal election, as Stephen Harper vows to fight their expansion and questions their benefit as part of his government’s tough-on-drugs agenda.

The latest challenge, laid out by Mr. Harper during a campaign stop this week in a suburban Toronto riding, comes as Montreal prepares to become the second Canadian city to offer a medically supervised setting for injection drug users. It also comes as drug overdoses and deaths linked to fentanyl are making headlines and groups in Toronto and Ottawa continue to cautiously work to build support for future sites.

Mr. Harper brought up the topic during a policy announcement, saying NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau would welcome “heroin injection sites” into more neighbourhoods. The data are “very mixed” on safe injection sites, he said. He added that Canadians do not want them in their neighbourhood because such a site “flows the entire drug trade into that community.”

Both the Liberals and the New Democrats are in favour of safe injection sites, and a Supreme Court of Canada ruling said Insite saves lives.

New report suggests Ottawa drug users would benefit from safe injection site

A new study suggests a significant number of Ottawa’s most serious drug addicts would use a safe injection site if one ever opened in this city.

The study, prepared for a group that wants to bring at least two safe injection sites to Ottawa, found that 75.4 per cent of surveyed addicts said they would be prepared to use a facility where they could inject drugs with clean needles under medical supervision.

That level of participation would reduce overdose deaths and offer huge health benefits to drug users, who suffer high rates of HIV and Hepatitis-C, while also improving the safety of downtown streets made hazardous by discarded needles, advocates said Thursday at a community meeting held to discuss the study.

“I think it shows that, contrary to popular belief, drug users are actually interested in their health,” said Rob Boyd, director of a program at Sandy Hill Community Health Centre that offers harm reduction and health services to drug users and sex workers.

“I think it shows they’re interested in ways of using drugs that are less harmful and that they don’t want to be using drugs publicly,” he said. “We all want a solution to drug use on the curb.”

Q&A: Are Supervised Injection Sites Effective?

Supervised Injection Sites, or SIS, has been a contentious issue in Ottawa for almost a decade.

Some see them located in Ottawa neighbourhoods as a cause for concern, others see it as a solution to the city's drug problem.

On Thursday, members of the Participatory Research in Ottawa: Understanding Drugs (or PROUD) released results of their city-wide survey relating to SIS. The study surveyed 858 drug users between March 2013 and January 2014.

The Sun spoke with Chris Dalton, knowledge translation co-ordinator of the study, to discuss the results and what they mean to the study group, drug users and communities.

Q: What do the results of the study show and tell you?

A: The data shows that people in Ottawa who are affected by addiction are the people who want and need these sites in order to feel safe and be healthy by not sharing dirty needles and spreading diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C.

Q: Why does Ottawa need a SIS?

A: Addiction is like any other disease out there. These people have a health problem and they need treatment that is humane, compassionate and proven to work.

Politicians at all levels agree to ignore the evidence with Bill C-2

There was rare harmony between our federal, provincial and local politicians last week as they gathered to announce the feds’ $62-million contribution to the Ottawa River Action Plan.

The infrastructure upgrade, which will reduce the filth flowing into the Ottawa River, is pretty uncontroversial. Who favours pollution?

And who doesn’t like to see our officials from different levels and parties play nice? Depends what they’re playing at.

Pierre Poilievre, the federal minister responsible for our region, later talked to Metro to tout the investment, but also to defend Bill C-2, The Respect For Communities Act, passed by the House of Commons last month, which raises new barriers to opening supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users.

Minister defends bill requiring consultation on injection site applications

The federal government would be irresponsible if it did not insist that recently tabled legislation regarding drug injection sites include provisions requiring community consultation, says a Conservative cabinet minister.

“This is clearly a matter of public health and public safety, and I think Canadians would expect the minister of health to listen carefully to the municipal and community leaders in a jurisdiction where an injection house is proposed,” Pierre Poilievre, the Minister of Employment and Social Development, said in an interview Wednesday.

New law could kill any hope for safe-injection site in Ottawa

The federal government has signalled when the city of Ottawa will be able to open a safe-injection site for intravenous drug users. It’s called never.

Little attention was paid when the House of Commons passed Bill C-2 in late March. Drug addicts are like prison inmates: They make poor lobbyists. The law is called the Respect For Communities Act, one of those Orwellian names — like the Safe Streets Act — cooked up by the short-pants in Mind Control.

The act is a response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2011 to uphold the existence of Vancouver’s Insite drug clinic because it delivered health benefits without substantial negative effects on the community.

But the new law makes future applications so burdensome, not to mention politically charged, it’s doubtful any would ever be approved.

“Should Bill C-2 become law, it will be extremely difficult to open a supervised injection anywhere in Canada, including in Ottawa,” said Lisa Wright, a PhD candidate and an organizer with the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites.

Residents rally for changes to national drug policy

As the debate over a safe-injection site in Ottawa rages at the municipal level, the battle for drug policy reform was brought to the federal government’s front door recently when demonstrators from across Canada gathered at Parliament Hill on Sept. 30.

The first annual FED UP! rally was organized by Donna May, founder of Jac’s Voice, a foundation devoted to spreading awareness about addiction and mental illness, named after May’s daughter, who died  two years ago from a disease related to her addiction. 

Drug overdose deaths can be curbed with compassion

Lives can be saved by reducing the stigma around drug overdose and making an overdose-reversing drug more readily available, according to people at a rally in downtown Ottawa Friday.

The rally, held before Sunday’s International Overdose Awareness Day, commemorated 32 people killed by drug overdoses in Ottawa over the last year by laying out 32 pairs of shoes on the Human Rights Monument.

Combatting overdose in the capital

The man’s face was purple. The whites of his eyes stared out, the pupils rolled back into his head. He was sweating profusely, his tongue hanging from his mouth.

When Sean LeBlanc opened the door to the rooming house hallway last summer, it was clear to the former addict what was happening.

“It was an opiate overdose,” he said. “I’d seen it before.”

LeBlanc sprang into action. He grabbed a naloxone kit — a device similar to an EpiPen — and injected the life-saving antidote into his friend’s shoulder.

It took less than 15 seconds for LeBlanc to empty the tiny vial and remove the retractable safety needle.

“Thanks to the naloxone training I could bring him back.”

He’s one of 93 people who have gone through Ottawa Public Health’s Peer Overdose Prevention Program (POPP) — one of the free harm reduction strategies available in the capital. It launched two years ago to coincide with the annual International Overdose Awareness Day, marked in Ottawa Friday at the Human Rights Monument at 11:30 a.m.

Ottawa safe injection site could work—if it overcomes ideology

It’s become something of a tradition in recent years. Yet another study presents evidence supporting supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users, and our elected officials respond with heroic efforts to ignore it.

The latest one from Simon Fraser University, published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, makes a pocketbook argument for two such facilities in Ottawa and thus might be expected to appeal to our conspicuously frugal mayor.

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