There will be fewer drug overdoses and infections such as HIV in Montreal thanks to three new supervised injection sites coming to the city, said Mayor Denis Coderre.
“I think it’s always been necessary to have safe injection sites,” Coderre said to reporters at Montreal City Hall Monday afternoon, just hours after the federal government approved the clinics.
One of the sites will be located in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area, in the city’s east end, and will be operated by the community organization Dopamine.
Two others will be located in the downtown borough of Ville-Marie and operated by Cactus and Spectre de rue, groups that provide support to drug users.
Denis Coderre on the city’s role in supervised injection sites.0:56
Health Canada maintains that supervised injection sites, which the federal government calls “safe consumption sites,” are the right tool to combat drug abuse.
Calls for such sites in Montreal grew louder after a flurry of overdoses in the spring of 2014. Public health officials expressed their alarm that June when 28 overdoses were reported over a short time span. Fifteen of them were fatal and six people died in one week alone.
In August 2016, activists held a march in the streets of Montreal renewing their calls for supervised injection sites to reduce drug overdoses.
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There are currently only two injection clinics in Canada — both in Vancouver. The Montreal sites will bring the total to five.
‘We are very excited to move with this project,’ says Cactus director-general Sandhia Vadlamudy. (Radio-Canada)
“We are very enthusiastic about this news. We’ve been waiting such a long time,” said Sandhia Vadlamudy, director-general for Cactus.
“There is an overdose crisis right now. We are very excited to move with this project and do prevention so that we can intervene adequately if we see an overdose can happen.”
Coderre said he realizes not everyone is on board with the idea, especially those who live in neighbourhoods where the sites will be located. But the mayor also said the government’s role is to keep citizens safe.
“What would you prefer: To have syringes all over the place? To have some people die of an overdose in the area? Our role is to protect people. Our role is to make sure that everybody feels safe and is safe. It’s not just about the people living there. It’s the people who have that problem who we have to take care of.”
Health Canada is also looking at a proposal for a fourth site in Montreal, which would be a mobile station.
Coderre said the sites will be a good way for health-care professionals to build trust with drug users.
“There are some people who are not willing to go to a hospital or a clinic, and to have that capacity to bring them to those sites will be helpful.”
A heroin user at the Insite supervised injection clinic in Vancouver in 2011. Insite was North America’s first legal injection site. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Reducing infections, province says
Last fall, the Quebec government already announced it would pump $12 million over three years to create and open drug-injection sites.
Lucie Charlebois, Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection and Public Health, said Monday she is happy the federal government is on board.
“I’m very happy for the people who will be using those centres because we will be preventing overdoses and also some deaths. We will also be reducing needle sharing and infections like HIV,” said Charlebois.
“Maybe we will be able to talk with them and take them to detox. But if not, we will be able to be near them.”
The three sites in Montreal are expected to open by the end of March or early April, once police background checks are conducted on employees and a visit from Health Canada confirms that the sites conform to all security measures.
The request for the mobile site is still under review.
Meanwhile, Health Canada is reviewing nine other applications to open supervised injection sites:
- Three in Toronto.
- Two in Vancouver.
- Two in Surrey, B.C.
- One in Victoria, B.C.
- One in Ottawa.