46% of Winnipeggers want safe injection sites: poll

Winnipeg is more in favour of safe intravenous drug injection sites than cities right next door in Saskatchewan, but falls behind some other major Canadian cities, a Mainstreet Research poll done for Postmedia suggests.

Winnipeg lags behind Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal in terms of support for supervised injection sites

Forty-six per cent of Winnipeggers polled recently said they are in favour of safe injection sites, compared to 33 per cent who don't support the idea. Meanwhile, 21 per cent weren't sure. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Winnipeg is more in favour of safe intravenous drug injection sites than cities right next door in Saskatchewan, but falls behind some other major Canadian cities, a Mainstreet Research poll done for Postmedia suggests.

"Winnipeg ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of support for safe injection sites," Mainstreet Research president Quito Maggi said in a statement, adding Winnipeg lags behind Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver but above Regina, Saskatoon and Calgary.

Main Street Research polled a random sample of 604 Winnipeggers on Jan. 3-4 over landlines and cellphones.

Forty-six per cent of Winnipeggers who were polled said they supported creating a safe injection site for intravenous drug users in the city, while 33 per cent were against the idea. Twenty-one per cent weren't sure.

Saskatoon and Regina were divided on safe injection sites. Forty-one per cent of people polled opposed a safe injection site and 38 per cent were in favour in Saskatoon, while 41 per cent of people were against and 39 per cent were in favour of the sites in Regina.

Winnipeg residents under 35 were more likely to back the sites and to say they believe drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine are more dangerous than they were just three years ago.

Meanwhile, 45 per cent of Winnipeggers across age groups said they believe recreational drugs are neither more dangerous nor safer today than they were in the past three years.

Fast-acting opioids like fentanyl affect opioid receptors in areas that control breathing.

"We've seen numerous reports from across the country that recreational drugs are becoming more dangerous," said Maggi.

An ongoing opioid crisis — in particular related to fentanyl and carfentanil — has received a lot of media attention in Winnipeg. There were 24 confirmed opioid-related deaths in Manitoba last year as of Nov. 22.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine, while carfentanil is 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

Mayor Brian Bowman said he continues to meet with provincial politicians, paramedics and people who have lost family members to opioid overdoses, but safe injections sites are not on the city's agenda.

"In none of those meetings has the issue of safe injection sites been raised. In fact, I have never had anybody raise that as a priority for the city of Winnipeg," Bowman said.

"We want to make sure drug dealers are locked up for a very long time," he added.

"What I have heard is the need for greater [long-term] treatment facilities to help our citizens who are affected by addictions, that is the number one focus for the families I've met with."

Bowman said he remains open to helping the province solve the crisis in whatever way he can.

The poll also suggests people over 65 follow news coverage on fentanyl deaths and overdoses in Winnipeg more than other age groups.

For comparison purposes, the margin of error for a poll this size would be plus or minus 3.98 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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