Safe-injection sites to open next spring
MONTREAL - Safe injection sites for heroin addicts and other IV drug users will likely open in Montreal and Quebec City next year.
The Cactus Montreal needle exchange, which has been operating out of a Ste. Catherine St. location for years, says it is encouraged that Health Minister Yves Bolduc approached them to set up the service.
Jean-Francois Mary of Cactus Montreal says the decision only makes sense.
"We've been really walking in that grey zone of providing the services to these people but saying to them 'no you can't use there. You need to go in the back alleys of Montreal' and which is really hypocritical," said Mary.
To date Cactus Montreal has been providing clean needles for drug addicts, as well as counselling, health, and social services to IV drug users and prostitutes.
Before going ahead with opening a location for drug users to get high, Cactus plans to hold public consultations with neighbours to ensure they are aware of what will happen.
Cactus Montreal will also have to build space for users, including areas where they can inject drugs, a room where they can recover, and an office for a yet-to-be-hired nurse.
Bolduc has also asked a similar organization in Quebec City if they want to set up a drug-injection centre.
The Minister's decision comes after the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that the federal government's attempts to close a safe injection site in Vancouver would do more harm than good.
In its 9-0 ruling, the SCOC wrote 'during its eight years of operation, Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada. The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.'
The court also ruled that exemptions to drug laws must be put in place to ensure staff are not prosecuted for drug possession or trafficking.