As fentanyl crisis claims lives, calls renew for safe injection site in Montreal

Montreal activists are renewing calls for more resources to prevent overdoses.

Montreal is awaiting federal approval for supervised injection clinics

Mixing heroin with fentanyl has sparked a public health crisis in many cities. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

As Montreal awaits federal approval for a safe injection site, activists are renewing calls for more resources to prevent overdoses.

Dozens gathered at Émilie-Gamelin Park on Wednesday evening to raise awareness of safe drug use. The recent spread of fentanyl, a powerful narcotic that's often cut into heroin, has created public health crises in many cities.

"I've lost five friends and it's five people that could have been saved," said David Champagne of the safe drug use group Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues.

Having a designated site to inject drugs under clinical supervision would go a long way to prevent overdose deaths, activists say.

"There's not really a way to test [for fentanyl] or avoid it, but you can reduce your dose, especially if you buy from a new dealer," said Sandrine Brodeur, a user who teaches others about safe use. "You can split your first dose in four, or in two to make sure the drug is not too strong."

Vancouver has had a safe injection site since 2003, which receives an average of 440 visits a day.

New Democratic MP for Hochelaga, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, was at the gathering.

"Supervised injection sites are very important to me. There would be one established in Hochelaga as soon as they come out. They're very useful as they do save lives," she said.

With files from Neil Herland