Group asking Ottawa Market residents to support supervised injection site

A group advocating a supervised injection site in the ByWard Market is canvassing the neighbourhood Sunday seeking support from residents.

“This is clearly a health crisis. We’re offering an alternative,” said Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites co-ordinator Chris Dalton.

Ottawans using drugs have high rates of overdose, infection, and rising rates of communicable diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, he said.

“This is a growing problem and if we don’t stop it soon, then there’s going to be more HIV,” Dalton said.

“If we can prevent any deaths at all, I mean, now is the time, in our opinion.”

Vancouver’s Insite facility has reduced rates of overdose, transmission of HIV/Hepatitis C, and crime, the group said.

The clinic operates under an exemption from federal drug laws, something Ottawa will need to open a supervised site.

Although Mayor Jim Watson and police chief Charles Bordeleau have opposed the idea, CSCS members are nonetheless petitioning for a safer inhalation and injection site for drug users, specifically downtown.

“That’s where the three biggest shelters in the city are, so this is clearly a homelessness problem as well,” Dalton said.

The group doesn’t have a specific location in mind.

“Anywhere would be great, really,” said Dalton, and keeping close to the shelters would be beneficial so that addicts would be more likely to use it.

He would like to see a facility “tomorrow.”

After explaining what the facility would entail, more than 90% of people polled on Saturday pledged to publicly support the initiative in their neighbourhood, Dalton said, but he couldn’t specify how many residents were asked.

“It went very well,” Dalton said.

On Sunday, they were hoping to find additional residents willing to back them.

“We didn’t hit all the residents in the Byward Market, nor have we hit all the businesses,” said Dalton.

He’s expecting an “easy sell,” as merchants — with astronomical plumbing bills — have complained in recent years about users disposing of drug paraphernalia in their toilets.

“This is going to keep people out of the bathroom,” he said.

The group is planning to campaign all summer.

The city’s annual needle hunting season, which began in 1998, is also underway.

Staffers search areas in the Market/Lowertown, Vanier, Hintonburg, Centretown, and Carlington from April 1st to November 30th each year.

Call 311 to report a needle or pipe.

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

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