MONTREAL - In the wake of last week's Supreme Court ruling that British Columbia has the right to operate a supervised drug injection site, a group of activists is pushing the Quebec government to open similar sites here.

They are calling for sites to be administered at several locations in Montreal and in Quebec City as a way of preventing the spread of disease and saving the lives of people who overdose on drugs.

"People should feel empathy for people who use drugs. It could be someone in your family, even yourself," said Francois Van Vliet.

"Even if people don't agree with it, they should still remember that those people are human beings with human rights," said Van Vliet.

Vancouver's Insite, located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, has come under fire.

Many critics say it has had a negative effect on the neighbourhood, where 5,000 of the area's 12,000 residents are drug users, but those critics ignore that Vancouver's Downtown Eastside was a haven for drug addicts for decades before the supervised drug-using facility opened in 2003.

Supporters say the number of overdoses in the Downtown Eastside has dropped by one-third since Insite opened.

When Insite opened it was granted an exemption to federal drug laws so that people inside are not arrested for drug possession, but the Harper government has repeatedly tried and failed to shut it down.

Van Vliet said people who are addicted to drugs will shoot up no matter what, so society should do what it can to minimize the costs associated with drug abuse.

"Even if you don't agree with it or whatever, they should remember that those people are still human beings and they have human rights," said Van Vliet.

His group is suggesting that Montreal's current needle exchange programs include a place where people can inject drugs with medical supervision.

In the spring public hearings took place in Quebec City to debate expanding the current needle exchange program to include a site that would offer intravenous drug users access to sterile syringes, health care services and addiction resources.

Many people who criticized that proposal said it was a good idea, but in the wrong location, since the Saint-Roch neighbourhood is in the process of being gentrified.

In May Health Minister Yves Bolduc said he would wait for the Supreme Court decision on Insite before deciding if Quebec will follow open a safe injection site.