Rejection of supervised injection sites in Ottawa too hasty, group says

A local community group said it’s a shame that Mayor Jim Watson and police chief Charles Bordeleau gave “knee-jerk” reactions Wednesday opposing supervised injection sites in Ottawa.

Caleb Chepesiuk, a member of Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa, said he wants to keep the discussion going on whether Ottawa should have such sites, even if Watson and Bordeleau are against them.

The discussion heated up Wednesday when results from the Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment (TOSCA) study said Ottawa would benefit from two supervised injection sites and Toronto would benefit from three of them.

“We think it’s very unfortunate that the mayor and police chief are opting to actively stand in the way of this discussion,” said Chepesiuk.

The group is hosting a free movie and discussion night April 17 at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library to talk about how the sites can address Ottawa’s drug problems.

‘We know there are plenty of community members in Ottawa who do want to see this, who do want to see a reduction of new HIV cases,” said Chepesiuk.

“We know the report noted there is support for these things,” he said. “Not only is Ottawa ready, but it is long overdue.”

Not according to Bordeleau, who told reporters Wednesday that the study doesn’t change his position on supervised injection sites.

“As long as the criminal element is there, we will have issues with the current format of safe injection sites,” said the chief.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau speaks with reporters Wednesday following the release of a report recommending supervised drug injection sites for Ottawa and Toronto.

“The link to organized crime is also a concern for policing across Canada and organized crime and drug traffickers preying on the vulnerable of our community.”

In spite of his firm opposition to the sites, Bordeleau said there will be a dialogue on the matter.

Some people are concerned crime may increase near supervised injection sites. But in Vancouver, it doesn’t seem to be the case, according to Vancouver police.

Canada’s first supervised injection site, Insite, was established in that city’s downtown eastside in 2003 and has had more than 1.8 million visits since.

Const. Lindsey Houghton, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department, said there has been no increase in crime related to Insite.

“The safe injection site concerns before it would open would be that it would dramatically increase crime and street disorder-related crimes in that area,” said Houghton. “And that has been found not to be the case.”

He cautioned that it doesn’t mean the streets are necessarily safer and drug users can still be seen shooting up in public.

“What it is there for is harm reduction; for people who are going to be intravenously using drugs or need immediate access to the safe injection site,” Houghton said.

By Joe Lofaro
Source: Metro News