Former Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen, who has been in office for nine years, encouraged the mayor Denis Coderre to stand up to Ottawa and go ahead with plans to open four supervised injection sites for addicts in Montreal by fall.
The former mayor was a staunch supporter of these injection sites. It was during his tenure that the program “Insite” was born in 2003 in the mainland of British Columbia. Insite remains today the only legal supervised injection site in Canada.
According to Owen, the merits of these supervised injection sites is “absolutely no doubt”, and Europeans are not mistaken, he has said. The former mayor recalled that at the time, his administration had concluded that it is the dealer who is the criminal: the addict, he is sick, and we must give him all the support of the health network.
On the eve of the federal election of October, a new debate on these injection sites is timely for mayor Coderre, who gave Ottawa until the end of the summer to approve the establishment of three supervised injection storefront and a mobile unit in the metropolis. The establishment of such sites must get approval from the Federal Ministry of Health. The Quebec government, he supported the Montreal project in April, but it has no jurisdiction to approve such an initiative.
These sites allow addicts to inject their drugs under optimal sanitary conditions, with clean needles. But they also offer them the chance to meet, perhaps social workers to help them get out of their addiction, and the health professionals who are aware of their particular needs.
Mayor Coderre called the Ottawa process “formality” and assured that he would go ahead with or without the green light from the federal.
The Health Minister Rona Ambrose gave another twist to the debate in combination with the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who rubbed Denis Coderre in the Liberal caucus while the mayor of Montreal was MP Bourassa. “We oppose – and we are deeply concerned – Justin Trudeau’s commitment to open supervised injection sites in Canada,” she said.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Insite helped to save lives and improve the health of drug addicts, without causing an increase in consumption or crime in the neighborhood. The country’s highest court also said the federal government should “generally” allow the creation of such sites if everything indicates that they reduce the risk of death and disease, and they will have little impact on safety public in the areas concerned.
The Conservative government has since adopted the respect of Government Act, which changes the way applications for supervised drug injection sites are evaluated by the Ministry of Health. Some community stakeholders, including the Canadian Nurses Association, have seen a maneuver conservatives to restrict the creation of such sites.