Supporters of supervised injection site rally on Parliament Hill

People calling for a supervised injection site in Ottawa brought their message to Parliament Hill Sunday afternoon.

They rallied in support of a clean and safe centre for drug-users in the Capital, a place they say can reduce the spread of disease and prevent deadly overdoses.

"Just to have a warm, clean place available, clean needles to use...people will be able to inject in areas that are much safer for them," said Dr. Mark Tyndall, head of Infectious Disease at the Ottawa Hospital.

"There’s a lot of hidden drug use, people running away from and out of jail, those kind of people are not currently connected with existing services," he added.

Ottawa Public Health says it has no plans to open a supervised injection site.

"We really want to hear more of what's being proposed, and what kind of approach is being recommended here in Ottawa before we (take) a position," said Andrew Hendriks with Ottawa Public Health.

"Ottawa Public Health feels there may be a role for a supervised injection site when you look at the spectrum or continuum of health care services here in Ottawa."

Former drug user Sean Leblanc has been clean now for four years. He says a safe injection site in Ottawa is overdue.

"It took me a long time to even be able to get clean needles and stuff like that," he said.  "If there was a supervised injection site, I would have been able to access those services years earlier, and probably stopped my addiction that much sooner too."

Supporters say without a safe injection site, drug users are at a higher risk of infectious diseases such as HIV, and are more likely to overdose.

"We see them, they're on the street using, it's not safe for them, they're shooting up in the bathrooms, they're not supervised, and it's so easy for us to lose somebody," said Lianne Slaughter, an Algonquin College student who is doing a school placement at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter.

Vancouver is currently the only city in Canada to have a safe injection centre.

Injection sites are also planned for Montreal, and Toronto's Board of Health has come out in support of a pilot site in that city.

By Claudia Cautillo
Source: CTV News