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'It's chaos': Children harassed at playground near Montreal safe drug-use site

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For months, parents in Montreal's St. Henri neighbourhood have been warning that a new safe drug-use site near their children's elementary school playground would lead to unsafe situations.

Months after opening, it seems their fears have come true.

"People injecting drugs, nudity, and what is the most frustrating is my little girl says sometimes they can't go to play outside because there's a battle or they're screaming outside, so they have to stay inside," said parent Charles Deschenes.

On Sunday, Deschenes said he took his children to the school to play and discovered two people having sex on school grounds.

"I had hope, a little hope, that during the opening, they would make it very good," he said. "But it's not going good at all right now. It's chaos."

On Tuesday, a window was smashed at the Petro Canada at Atwater Avenue and Notre-Dame Street.

St-Henri resident Real Remillard said he witnesses children being harassed on a daily basis on their way to school.             

"Monday morning, the kids with their mother go to school, and one guy peed on the kid and tried to give candy. Stupid," he said.

During lunch hour on Wednesday, CTV News witnessed a conflict between a school employee and several men who approached the children through the fence.

Montreal police were called and school staff cleared students out of a large area of the playground.

Deschenes said it's a regular occurrence.

"I was coming home from the job earlier, and I saw a lady smoking crack just, on the other side of the fence, right next to the kids; smoking crack!" he said.

When the project was first announced in September, the city councillor for the area justified the project.

"It's the population living here that we want to bring from using outside and leaving their syringes everywhere and bringing them inside," said independent Sud-Ouest councillor Craig Sauve.

Parents in the area say, however, that the opposite has happened.

"Because they don't have control over them," said Deschenes. "If, they want to go outside, they can go outside. If they want to use outside and it's summertime, who wants to go inside to have fun?"

In a statement, Projet Montreal city councillor responsible for homelessness Robert Beaudry said parents are "right to be shocked and worried."

"We will be holding discussions today to find solutions," he said in a statement. "We also hope that once the work is completed, the situation will improve. We will work with our teams, the health ministry and the organization to improve the situation."

Deschenes is worried that the stressful environment is going to have long-term effects on his children.

"I'm a teacher and I know for a fact that children who do not feel safe during school, or all the time, kids won't learn as much as a kid who was in a safe environment," he said. "This will affect the the progress in school, for sure." 

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