Pubdate: Tue, 07 Feb 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Authors: Andrea Woo and Les Perreaux
Page: A12


Health Canada has approved three supervised consumption sites for
Montreal - the first federal approvals for the harm-reduction
facilities outside of Vancouver as Ottawa presses forward in its
response to Canada's overdose crisis.

Montreal has waited two years for federal sign-off on the sites,
during which fatal overdoses linked to illicit fentanyl have surged in
parts of Canada, notably British Columbia and Alberta. The federal
department announced the approvals on Monday, noting that such sites
have shown positive results in Canada and other countries.

"International and Canadian evidence shows that, when run properly,
supervised consumption sites can save lives without increasing drug
use or crime in the surrounding area," Health Minister Jane Philpott
said in a statement.

The sites are set to be established in addiction drop-in centres and
needle exchanges already running in Montreal's Centre-Sud and
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhoods on the eastern side of downtown.
Centre-Sud has several parks and soup kitchens that are hubs for the
city's homeless while Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is one of the poorest
neighbourhoods in Montreal.

Montreal has about 4,000 chronic injection drug users and about 1,000
of them are homeless, according to the city.

The sites still require renovations and site inspections from Health
Canada before opening, which will likely take several months. A fourth
site - a mobile unit - is still being considered by the federal government.

Jordan Westfall, president of the Canadian Association of People Who
Use Drugs, said he was pleased to hear that Montreal's applications
were approved, "but it's unthinkable our government waited this long
in the first place."

Outside of Vancouver, Montreal had been furthest along in the process
to open the sites, with the province and city each voicing their
approval under the previous Conservative government. The city formally
submitted its applications to Health Canada in May, 2015, but the
process stalled waiting for federal approval.

The Conservative government stood in staunch opposition to the
harm-reduction service, fighting Vancouver's Insite - to date the only
public supervised injection site in North America - all the way to the
Supreme Court of Canada, which sided with the Downtown Eastside facility.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre first announced his intention to set up
the sites more than two years ago and the former Liberal cabinet
minister credited the current Liberal federal government for finally
lifting roadblocks.

"The Supreme Court of Canada said clearly it's a matter of public
safety and we now have a federal government that respects the view of
the court," Mr. Coderre said.

Polls consistently show Montrealers support the establishment of
supervised injection sites. A Mainstreet Research poll published in
January showed 20 per cent of Montrealers disapproved of such sites,
lower than any other major Canadian city. Twothirds of Montrealers
approved of them.

Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said Quebec and
Montreal have a "broad social consensus" in favour of the sites.

"We're going to prevent deaths and illnesses associated with
overdose," Ms. Charlebois said in an interview. "We're going to reduce
sharing of needles and along the way we're going to reduce HIV
infection. For the people in the neighbourhoods, there will be fewer
needles on the ground. It will be safer for everyone."

The Quebec government has committed $12-million over three years to
get the sites running.

"We pay more for their emergency room and ambulance services right
now," Ms. Charlebois said.

The federal government is currently reviewing 10 other applications
for supervised injection sites: one in Ottawa, three in Toronto, two
more in Vancouver, two in Surrey, one in Victoria and Montreal's
mobile site.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt