Pop-up injection site must come down, Fleury says
'Authorities are on notice' to remove Overdose Prevention Ottawa tent if necessary, councillor warns
An illegal supervised injection site set up by volunteers in a Lowertown park must come down now that a city-run site is ready to open nearby, the city councillor for the area demanded Tuesday.
The city-run injection site — Ottawa's first sanctioned facility — is set to open Tuesday afternoon at 179 Clarence St., only two blocks from the tent operated by the volunteer group Overdose Prevention Ottawa in Raphael Brunet Park.
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With the interim site ready to take clients until a permanent site opens at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre in late October, Coun. Mathieu Fleury said Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is now ready to handle the demand — and called on Overdose Prevention Ottawa to shut down the illegal site.
"We've asked them to transition," he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.
Fleury said the city is open to learning from the group's experience serving drug users.
"If they have advice, if they want to find ways to help OPH at 179 Clarence, we're certainly open to it," Fleury said.
Pop-up site will stay, group says
Marilou Gagnon, a public health nurse and volunteer with Overdose Prevention Ottawa, said Monday that her group welcomes the new site, but plans to continue operating their own.
"We're not in a position right now in Ottawa [with] the overdose crisis to shut down any service," Gagnon told CBC News.
Gagnon has said both her group's site and the sanctioned Health Canada site could operate in tandem, citing the examples of other Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
Ultimately, we're both in the business of saving lives. But for some people [the OPH site] may not fit their needs.- Marilou Gagnon, Overdose Prevention Ottawa
"People who use drugs in this area will be able to pick the service that fits their needs the best. Ultimately, we're both in the business of saving lives. But for some people [the OPH site] may not fit their needs," she said.
Overdose Prevention Ottawa has raised concerns about a policy at the new site that would limit people to one injection per visit within 20 minutes — as well as prohibitions on peers administering drugs and inhalation.
The pop-up tent lets people use drugs as they would on the street with the benefit of supervision and the time they need to do it safely, Gagnon said.
'Our authorities are on notice'
Fleury doubts the need for two sites in such close proximity, however.
"I'm surprised by their latest statement that they believe there is a greater need and they will continue to operate," he said. "The pop-up site — which is in a park near a community centre, which didn't get consultation — is two blocks away, so we're metres away."
Fleury said he's still hoping for a peaceful conclusion, but said the city is ready to call in police to dismantle the illegal site.
"Our authorities are on notice."
With files from Radio-Canada, Mathew Kupfer, Trevor Pritchard