Pubdate: Sat, 03 Sep 2016
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jesse Feith
Page: A3


Project for Supervised Facilities Was Approved After Local Consultations

More than a year after Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre called for the 
urgent implementation of supervised drug injection sites, local 
advocates are stuck waiting for a project experts agree has 
life-or-death consequences.

"We've been saying it and resaying it for many years now," said 
Martin Page, general director of Dopamine, a group based in 
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve that helps the homeless and addicted. 
"Supervised injection sites are a positive for everyone in the community."

Not only would injection sites help prevent overdoses and other 
complications linked to drug use, Page said on Friday, but they would 
benefit the neighbourhood by reducing drug consumption in public spaces.

"There are so many more positive effects than there are negative 
ones," Page said. "That's been proven in communities all around the world."

In Montreal - after consultations with public safety authorities, the 
Montreal police department, and affected residents - a proposed 
project that would bring three supervised injection sites to the city 
was approved in 2013.

So was a mobile clinic that would roam around Montreal.

At a news conference last summer, Coderre said he wanted the sites 
implemented by that fall.

"What are we waiting for?" the mayor asked at the time. "People are dying."

Coderre said he wouldn't wait too long for Health Canada's approval, 
given a Supreme Court decision on the matter. In 2011, the top court 
ruled Vancouver's Insite centre - the first supervised injection site 
in Canada - was a necessary service, and closing it would jeopardize 
the health and lives of its users.

In the summer of 2014, the most recent data available from the 
regional public health department, 233 people suffered drug overdoses 
in Montreal. Twenty-eight people died. Two years later, there still 
aren't any sites in Montreal, and the federal government has yet to 
give the project its approval. The city did not answer interview 
requests Friday.

This week, British Columbia officials pressured Ottawa to make it 
easier for supervised drug injection sites to set up in cities that 
want them. The Globe and Mail reported B.C. officials sent Federal 
Health Minister Jane Philpott a letter urging her to repeal the 
Respect for Communities Act that was introduced by the former 
Conservative government. Many experts claim the legislation puts too 
many hurdles between injection sites and interested cities.

Under the law, communities that want to open supervised drug 
injection sites must meet several requirements and consult with 
public health officials, community members, local police and 
provincial health ministers. Applicants must give information on 
crime rates near the proposed site, and hope for an exemption from 
Health Canada to be allowed to operate.

"The law established criteria and conditions that are so restrictive 
when it comes to supervised injection sites that not only does it 
complicate the process, but locally, it slows it down enormously 
too," said Jean-Francois Mary, director general of the Association 
quebecoise pour la promotion de la sante des personnes utilisatrices 
de drogues.

Though he's trying to stay confident, Mary said, fighting for more 
than a decade for a cause now stuck in bureaucratic limbo can be disheartening.

"We don't even believe it anymore when we hear that they're going to 
be opened soon," Mary said.

"The organizations that are supposed to host the sites don't even 
dare set opening dates anymore. We're stuck in a grey area where, 
every year for the last three years, we're told they'll be open in 
the spring. But it doesn't happen."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom