Harm reduction workers take mayor to task

Overdose Prevention Ottawa, the organizers behind the pop-up supervised injection site in Lowertown have accused Mayor Jim Watson of behaving “recklessly with his own residents’ lives.”

The group issued a statement on Wednesday that celebrated the successes they have had over twenty days of operation. That statement also took the mayor to task for what they are calling a dangerous level of inaction.

“Mayor Jim Watson continues to spread misinformation and ignore expert knowledge on the matter,” wrote the group. “Out of the 25 overdose prevention sites in Canada, no other civic leader, entrusted with the safety and duty of care for citizens, has behaved as recklessly with his own residents’ lives as Mayor Watson.”

The mayor has said that once Ottawa Public Health’s site opens, he hopes that OPO will cease operation. “My belief is that the current pop-up site is illegal. It shouldn’t be taking up a park where children play, and is next to a community centre, and my hope is that they will understand,” he said on Wednesday.

OPO volunteer Marilou Gagnon said, though, that the group had not heard his comments when they were putting together the statement, instead hoping to remind people of the vital nature of their service after OPH’s announcement on Tuesday.

But Gagnon reiterated her criticism of Watson’s handling of the site. “It’s just a reality that the mayor, from day one, has not made any attempt to meet us, to contact us, to visit the site. He’s been opposed from day one.”

If the mayor were to coerce the site to close before OPH’s is operating, Gagnon said “that would constitute negligence. And I use that word specifically.”

By Kieran Delamont
Source: Metro