Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jan 2017
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: David Larkins
Page: 3


An advocate for Winnipeg's homeless and addicted population says the city
is in "denial" about its injection drug problem.

Rick Lees, executive director of Main Street Project, looks at other large
urban centres in Canada and says Winnipeg is lagging behind in addressing
its hard drugs problem.

"On the committees I sit on, it's always on the agenda for discussion, but
that's all it is," Lees said. "We're where (other cities) were a year or
two years ago. Ottawa is on the cusp of doing it, Toronto's mayor is out
in support of it, Vancouver has been doing it for seven years now. In
Manitoba, I think we're a bit in denial either because we're a smaller
population or we just don't think it's that big a deal because it's not
interfering with our mainstream lives."

Lees said misconceptions continue about what a safe injection site offers.
While they are a safe space for addicts to get their hit, the sites also
provide counselling services and the potential to route an addict towards
social services that will help them deal with their addiction.

"When the Vancouver site opened, they found 95% went there to get their
hit," Lees said. "They now know from current statistics that only about
40% go there to get their hit, and the other 60% go to get off the drug
and find their way out of this insidious addiction."

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a statement that safe injection
sites aren't a priority while the Tory government reviews the province's
health-care spending.

"There are limited funds to invest in both harm reduction and other
prevention initiatives," the statement read. "These have to be considered
in terms of what will have the greatest impact for the dollars available."
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