Pubdate: Sat, 30 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: David Reevely
Page: 4



People crowd in the reception area for councillors' offices at city
hall yesterday to protest councillor Mathieu Fleury suggesting a
Lowertown 'pop-up' safe-injection site be removed.

For over a year, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury has been one of
city council's most vocal backers of a supervised drug-injection site
to save Ottawa drug users from overdoses. Friday, protesters crowded
outside Fleury's city hall office, calling him everything but a killer.

About 100 supporters of Overdose Prevention Ottawa and its "pop-up"
tent in a Lowertown park chanted "Shame!" and demanded he "man up!"
and face them.

They were - they are - angry over his wish that they take their tent
down now that Ottawa's health unit has opened its own small injection
site in a city building two blocks away.

Fleury, they said, will have blood on his hands if the city makes them
stop putting up their tent in Raphael Brunet Park every afternoon, as
they have for the past month. And he is repulsive for saying nearby
residents feel "hostage" to the unsanctioned injection site, operating
on city property without approval.

They'd rallied outside city hall, shared stories of the 1,100 visitors
they've monitored using drugs, the three overdoses they say they've
reversed. They'd talked about the hundreds of drug users across Canada
who've died as the continental opioid epidemic has become more lethal
with the arrival of fentanyl and carfentanil - overstrength opioids
tainting the supply of morphine and heroin.

"On Tuesday afternoon, the first day of the safe injection site in
Ottawa, one-anda-half hours into their service operating, there was an
overdose at the Sheps (the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter) two blocks
away," Leila Attar said into a bullhorn. "To me this indicates the
service, while it's commendable, is unable to meet the needs in our
city of a vulnerable population."

Attar overdosed last fall after three years of deepening drug use, she
said. Now in her 10th month of sobriety, she's dedicated herself to
helping other users.

"Instead of listening to those of us on the ground responding to this
crisis as best as we can, Fleury and his friends condemn our attempts
to respond," said Stan Kupferschmidt, a harm-reduction worker at the
Somerset West Community Health Centre.

"Instead of responding with praise to our tired and exhausted
volunteers, or visiting our space, they tell us to shut down," he objected.

"Shame!" the crowd answered.

They went in to deliver 600 letters of support for their operation and
dozens of emptied naloxone kits, formerly filled with a drug that can
reverse overdoses.

Fleury didn't come out to see them, which led to a

After half an hour, the group taped their protest signs to the walls
of city councillors' shared reception area, spread the naloxone kits
out, deposited what they said were 600 letters of support for their
operation on the desk, and left. This isn't over, they said.

Fleury supports supervised injection sites. He supports what the
health unit is doing to speed such sites along in Ottawa. He supports
the kind of help Overdose Prevention Ottawa is providing to downtown
drug users. He supported the city's forbearance in enforcing laws that
could have shut the tent down right away.

Yet he doesn't want to back their insistence on staying in Raphael
Brunet Park now, and he won't go see the operation.

Nobody should expect to see Mayor Jim Watson at the tent: It's not in
his nature to go places where he's likely to be yelled at or made
uncomfortable, unless he'll be in the big chair and holding the gavel.
He's on record opposing supervised injection sites anyway, even if
he's stood aside while they've moved toward approval here.

For Fleury, it's more complicated.

"I just don't want to make a political statement," he said. Going, he
said, would undermine the city's authority to control its own grounds.

But going to the tent and refusing to go to the tent are both
statements, whether he wants them to be or not, and Coun. Mathieu
Fleury is a politician.
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MAP posted-by: Matt