Supervised injection sites enable addicts and will bring more drugs into the city via ‘no-go’ zones where drug laws won’t be enforced, says the co-founder of Safer Ottawa.
Chris Grinham, who helps clean up spent drug paraphernalia cleanup in Lowertown, predicts a five-block radius will be filled with dealers, who’ll start carrying a low supply.
“Rather than walking around with 20 rocks of crack, they’ll walk around with four, sell the four, go back, get more, and that’s how it runs,” he said.
“And if they get stopped, they’ll just simply say, ‘We’re on our way to site,’ and not get arrested,” said Grinham, adding it’s happening in Vancouver at the Insite program.
Mayor Jim Watson and Police Chief Charles Bordeleau are also opposing the notion after a study released Wednesday from St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto recommending Ottawa house two sites.
The aim is to reduce the transmission of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Proponents argue the sites push addicts in the right direction — a concept Grinham sees problematic.
“One, you don’t need an injection site to guide people toward treatment, and number two, there’s no treatment to guide them to,” said Grinham.
“The beds are full. The waiting list is 12 to 18 months. There’s nowhere for them to go.”
If the sites do come to town, “There’s no question. One will go down in Lowertown, probably on the edge of the Byward Market,” said Grinham.
Associate medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said Ottawa Public Health currently “has no plans to work on opening a (supervised injection) centre.”
“I think we’ll look to what the evidence is telling us, and we’ll look to what our partners in the community are discussing about what’s needed,” said Etches.
OPH is interested in the study’s findings, “but we’re interested in the whole picture, right? So it’s a complex problem,” she said.
“There’s social questions and implications, there’s legal questions, financial questions, and so all of those need to be addressed in deciding what’s appropriate for our community.”
Grinham is strongly opposed.
“We’ll end up with addicts coming from Hull, from Montreal, from New York. These are a transient population,” said Grinham.
“They’re all going to flock to Ottawa because in these areas around these sites, they can’t get arrested. They won’t go to jail. They won’t be forced into treatment services, and it’s not that they don’t want them.”