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Residents hire lawyers to halt construction of Saint-Henri safe drug use site near elementary school

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The debate surrounding a safe drug use site near an elementary school in Montreal's Saint-Henri neighbourhood continues with many residents who live nearby wanting the site to change locations.

Parents whose children attend the Victor Rousselot Elementary School have now hired lawyers as construction continues on the site, which has yet to open.

"Are there other areas in the borough this could have been?" asked Saint-Henri resident Jackson Wightman. "I think probably there are. They seem to have picked the worst area they could have picked."

A group of lawyers, including Julius Grey, are negotiating to have the site moved.

"We have to make it clear, we're not opposed to helping people who are addicted, we think those are very good initiatives, but we think they should not be taking place next door to a school," said Grey.

A spokesperson for Montreal Public Health said the project is dependant on being granted an exemption from Quebec Public Health.

Quebec Public Health has not returned CTV News requests for comment.

Grey said if the injection site is given a final green light, an injunction or judicial review could be the next step.

"I think the final decision has not been taken that's why we're not in court," said Grey. "We're negotiating. We're trying to convince them that while the project is an excellent project, it should be moved somewhere else... The centre spills out into the street, and the children are in contact with it, so we're still in the negotiation stage."

The building will house homeless people suffering from mental health and addiction issues.

The project includes a safe drug use site and 36 apartment units. It is run by the Benedict Labre House, a local non-profit.

"We're going to get 36 people who were homeless off the streets in a couple of months," said Francine Nadler from the project.

Despite opposition, the non-profit is confident the project will go forward.

Nadler said the safe drug-use component is crucial to saving lives.

"The benefit of having the harm reduction cubicles, the supervised cubicles, is that if anything goes wrong, if somebody overdoses or experiences a drug poisoning, we are there," said Nadler. "We are there with naloxone and Narcan... We are there to perform CPR until the ambulance can get there."

On Wednesday, a public meeting with residents and the Benedict Labre House was held.

Wightman left the meeting with concerns.

"The inherent absurdity of locating this right next to a school remained for me," he said. "The meeting did absolutely nothing to assuage my fears."

The non-profit said that another meeting will be held on Tuesday to build a local committee in the hopes of improving relations with the community. 

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