50 visited pop-up drug use tent in 3 days, nurse says

One of the organizers behind an unsanctioned pop-up drug use site in Ottawa says their first three days of operation have been successful.

Potential overdose prevented, volunteers say

Marilou Gagnon, a nurse and president of the Harm Reduction Nurses Association, said 50 people visited the unsanctioned pop-up drug use tent on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

One of the organizers behind an unsanctioned pop-up drug use site in Ottawa says their first three days of operation have been successful.

In total, 50 people accessed the tent in Raphael Brunet Park at St. Patrick and Cumberland streets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, nurse Marilou Gagnon told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Monday.

Of those 50 clients, one of them could potentially have overdosed if he wasn't being actively monitored, Gagnon said.

"We're all very sleep deprived and we've all given our best for this to happen in a very short time, and I feel this morning I woke up with a sense of pride that I've never experienced in my life," Gagnon said.

Community concerns

Some people in the community have raised concerns about the site, including that it's set up near the Routhier Community Centre in an area that doesn't see a lot of drug use, that young people in the area could be influenced by it, and that some neighbours are opposed to it.

Gagnon disagrees.

"It's very much where the drug use is happening in Ottawa," she said, adding that the team noticed someone injecting on the steps of a church across the street.

"I haven't seen one young person use the centre in the time that we were there. I think that we're very much away from the [Routhier] centre. And I think it's also understanding that it doesn't bring disruption, it doesn't bring any risk. 

"We're very much organized and actually, also maybe challenging the idea that people who use drugs are potentially a risk to kids. I think that's not true and I would like to challenge that a bit, and also challenge the fact that we're hearing the neighbours who are concerned but we're not hearing the voices of all the neighbours who have come to show support. They're not being interviewed," she said.

"I'm sensing a lot of support and I'm not surprised that some voices are out there opposing the site, but I would also like to see a bit more of a balance and representation of the neighbours."

Liability questions

Asked about who'd be liable if someone died at the site, Gagnon asked who's liable for the drug users currently overdosing and dying on the streets with no supervision.

"If people don't come to our site they have nowhere to go. So I would say, who are we holding accountable for people dying on our streets? No one," she said.

Gagnon also doesn't think the people working at the pop-up site would be liable if a death occurred.

"I don't think so because we're functioning with laypeople knowledge. This is basically first aid, what you would expect every citizen in Ontario right now with a naloxone kit to do."