Parents take on planned Ville Marie safe injection site
The fight over a downtown safe injection site continues, with parents from a nearby school protesting outside the planned location on Wednesday.
Spectre du Rue has operated as a needle exchange for almost 20 years, offering clean needles to intravenous drug users in an attempt to cut down on overdoses and disease transfers. Next week, it’s set to begin allowing drug users to inject on the premises under medical supervision, in an effort to reduce the number of drug overdoses on Montreal’s streets.
“It's a positive solution to the opioid crisis, and no one has overdosed or died at any of the Vancouver safe injection sites,” said Jason Champagne of the regional health board.
But parents at the nearby Marguerite Bourgeoys School said the area has become much more residential in recent years and believe Spectre would better serve its clients elsewhere.
“It was maybe a good place to open a site 10 years ago but now it’s not the right place,” said Christelle Perrine, president of the school’s governing board. “We’d like to discuss with them the way to provide this new service but in safety conditions for everybody, for the users of drugs but also the residential people and the kids.”
Stephanie Bellenger-Heng, Ville-Marie commissioner for the Commission Scolaire de Montreal, said the site’s planned hours of operation coincide with times when the school will be packed with children.
“The supervised injection site wants to be open from 9:30 to 6:00 and that’s school class time,” she said. “That’s why the parents are a little bit worried about this.”
Parents want a school crossing guard as additional safety and want the centre to consider moving and restricting its opening hours.
“We open safe injection sites where there are users,” said Champagne.
Simon Durocher, chief of the SPVM precinct in which Spectre is located, said he understands the concerns but doesn't believe they are warranted as drug dealers have not been attracted to the area by Spectre's presence.
"I don't have concerns about security after the opening because at the moment and in the years before, we've been doing analysis and there's problem with the criminality," he said. "I don't think something more dangerous is going to happen after that. The people who come here for the past years consumed their drugs near the centre. They already bought their drugs before coming here."
He said the area is not a magnet for dealers.
“If one drug dealer thinks he's going to make money around over here, being close, we're going to catch him and we're going to arrest him,” he said.
In February, Health Canada authorized three safe injection sites. Cactus Montreal, located on Sanguinet, began operating in that capacity in June, as did L’Anonyme, a mobile truck that roves around the downtown area.
In October, the school’s parents hired renowned constitutional lawyer Julius Grey to help in their fight. Grey called on the government to step in and said a court challenge would not be out of the question.
On Wedensday, Perrine said seeking an injunction is a last resort.
“We’re still working with (Julius) Grey, but it’s very difficult to fight against institutions,” she said. “That’s not our aim, we’d like to discuss and find a good solution for everybody.”