Group canvassing for safe injection site support

A local advocacy group is keeping up the fight for a safe injection site in Ottawa, despite the opposition of the mayor and police chief.

The Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa (CSCS) went door-to-door in the ByWard Market on Saturday, asking residents about drug use in the area and if they’d support opening a site where people addicted to drugs could safely inject.

“People aren't accessing proper health care, medical care, and that in turn causes their symptoms to exacerbate,” said Chris Dalton with the campaign. “Then they have to go to the hospital and it ends up costing the healthcare system a lot more.”

The pair of surveyors followed by CBC Ottawa had a tough time getting people to talk about the issue.

“I don't think the residents in the ByWard Market want a safe injection site,” said local resident John O’Sullivan. “I don't think any community wants it.”

“Obviously we'd hope to have support for our goals, but to hear the negative, like the concerns that people have, is also very important,” said Maria Pranschke with the campaign.

Both Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson and police chief Charles Bordeleau said no matter the result of this survey, they’ll remain opposed to opening a site in the city.

“The Ottawa police service's position hasn't changed on the supervised injection sites,” Bordeleau said Saturday. “My concern is around public safety and what these sites bring with it.”

Watson said treatment should be the city’s priority.

“That's where our focus should be, treating these young addicts and not providing a place for them to shoot up,” he said.

Since 2003, Vancouver has had a safe injection site, called Insite, where addicts can inject drugs in a controlled environment and connect with health care or other support services.

The issue came up in Ottawa during the 2010 mayoral race and again in 2012, when a study looked into the impact of creating similar sites in Ottawa and Toronto.

Dolly Lin with the CSCS said she hopes their survey, which will continue into next week, will help renew the discussion.

“If people have specific feedback that they want to discuss with us, like reasons why they are for or against, we're there for that dialogue as well,” she said.

By Kamil Karamali
Source: CBC News