British Columbia

Pop-up supervised injection site shut down hours after opening in Maple Ridge

Homeless advocates built and ran a supervised injection site in Maple Ridge for five hours on Wednesday before the RCMP shut it down.

'The community is not going to wait for the government,' says organizer from Alliance Against Displacement

Sandi Orr worries lives will be lost without an overdose prevention site in Maple Ridge. (CBC News)

Homeless advocates built and ran a supervised injection site in Maple Ridge, B.C., for five hours Wednesday before the RCMP shut it down. 

The unsanctioned site was set up at 22548 Royal Cres. on the property of a modular housing facility to protest the lack of a sanctioned site in the city.

Organizers say a site is needed to prevent overdose deaths and they plan to build another one in the city if health officials do not.

"If we don't hear from Fraser Health by Monday about a site, a place they will allow a temporary overdose prevention site, then we will take action again because the community is not going to wait for the government," said Ivan Drury, advocate with the group Alliance Against Displacement.

Drury said three people used the site in the first couple of minutes it was open.

It was eventually shut down by RCMP officers who threatened to arrest the organizers and recommend mischief charges.

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Fraser Health Authority said it will continue to work with the city to find solutions and does offer overdose prevention services in modular housing facilities.

For drug users who visited the unsanctioned site, that isn't enough.

"If you don't let us have this site, there are people who are going to die," said user Sandi Orr. 

Caitlin Shane, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, said the need for a supervised injection site comes in the wake of the removal of the Anita Place tent city in March, and in the middle of an addiction crisis.

Shane said shutting down life-saving facilities when there are no other sites like it in Maple Ridge is a "significant threat to people's life, liberty and security."

In a statement to CBC News, Mayor Mike Morden said he does not support "anything illegal or unregulated, including safe injection and overdose prevention sites."

The mayor said the city is in the process of building a community safety plan to get "citizens moving in the right direction, when they are ready, willing and able."

Advocates and users have been at odds with city officials since Anita Place was dispersed and an unsanctioned injection site was closed at the camp. 

With files from Megan Batchelor