Winnipeg one step closer to bringing supervised consumption site to city
Councillors vote 9-6 in favour of feasibility study
City councillors have voted in favour of a feasibility study looking into the merits of a supervised drug consumption site, bringing Winnipeg one step closer to having one.
Councillors voted 9-6 in favour of the motion Thursday night after debating whether the site would help a growing crisis of hard drug use and overdoses in Winnipeg, which some have said has grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much of the debate centred around why the city should be doing this when health is clearly a provincial jurisdiction.
A supervised drug consumption site is a medically supervised facility designed to provide a hygienic environment in which people are able to consume illicit recreational drugs. They are meant to prevent overdoses and the spread of intravenous infections such as HIV.
Last month, Mayor Brian Bowman wouldn't unequivocally support the establishment of a site in Winnipeg. However, on Thursday, he said he supported the motion.
"I've met with too many families, I've met with too many parents who have lost loved ones to addictions, and that compels me to try to take action," he said.
The councillors who voted along with Bowman in favour of the motion were John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Vivian Santos (Point Douglas).
Those who voted against the motion were Couns. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Janice Lukes (Waverley West), Shawn Nason (Transcona), Scott Gillingham (St. James) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan).
The motion was initially brought forward by Couns. Rollins and Gilroy last month.
"A report in 120 days means only that this level of government, the City of Winnipeg, understands the drug poisoning crisis and that we want to lean in," Rollins said following the vote.
Bowman said he is disappointed the province hasn't taken more of a leadership role in what is clearly a health issue.
"I'm hopeful that even today's discussion … will spur further discussion at the province of Manitoba."
But Lukes said she decided to vote against the motion because she thinks bringing a safe consumption site to Winnipeg is up to the province.
"I'm not going to debate the benefits or challenges of safe consumption sites, just as I'm not going to debate the benefits or challenges of cancer or dialysis sites or other aspects of health care, because health care is a provincial jurisdiction," she said.
When asked about it at the end of January, Premier Brian Pallister said he didn't think it was as high a priority as other prevention measures.
"Nothing works perfectly, so I wouldn't want it to be taken as an absolute statement that there may not be some value from such sites. I don't think that it's as high a priority as perhaps some others do," Pallister told reporters.
City staff have 120 days to come back with a report.
With files from Jonathan Ventura