British Columbia

Supervised injection site planned for Victoria — with or without feds' OK

A Victoria group is planning a march to memorialize those lost to drug overdoses on Vancouver Island, and says they're pushing ahead with plans to develop their own supervised injection site — with or without the federal government's permission.

The Yes2SCS steering committee says it's planning to have the site open by the end of 2016

Bruce Wallace, a member of the Yes2SCS steering committee says his group is tired of waiting for a supervised injection site on Vancouver Island. (CBC)

A group in Victoria pushing for a supervised injection site on Vancouver Island says it will begin operating one soon, with or without permission from the federal government.

Bruce Wallace, a member of the Yes2SCS steering committee, says his organization is tired of waiting. He says they have enough support from government, police and the community to make a supervised injection site a reality.

"It's been over a decade that Island Health expressed their support for these services. It's been over a decade that Insite's been running and been having all the evidence to support the services," he told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"We're now in a position where there's support from every level of government for safe consumption services, there's a level of support from all community stakeholders, including our city, police … social service agencies. So our question is, if not now, when?"

Wallace says his group has been following the application process, but he's not committed to it. He says the process was intentionally made difficult by the previous federal government.

"We've heard very clearly from the current federal government and the health minister last week in Vancouver that there's enthusiasm for these services," he said.

Wallace was adamant that by the end of 2016, a supervised safe injection site would be operating on Vancouver Island.

Rally planned for Jan. 28

On Thursday, Jan. 28, Wallace and Yes2SCS will be holding a rally and memorial march for those who have died of drug overdoses on Vancouver Island.

Since late December, eight people have died from overdoses in Victoria and four more have died in Nanaimo. Those fatalities are linked to a batch of street drugs laced with fentanyl.

"We need to pay respect to the families and friends and really mourn the amazing loss and recognize that these are preventable deaths," he said.

"Moving from there I think we need to wake up, we need to say what we're doing is not working and our punitive drug laws and the stigma responses that we have to illicit drug use … they're killing young people."

Wallace says that while some agencies believe they're taking an education approach to the dangers of drug use, what they're often doing is simply making the addicted the ones responsible.

He says to put responsibility for solving the crisis on often-criminalized people is dangerous, unless there is a public health effort to to help.

The march begins at 12 p.m. on Thursday at Centennial Square in Victoria.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Victoria group plans to push ahead with supervised injection site, whatever feds say


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