Ottawa

Ottawa police chief opposes safe injection clinics

A Supreme Court ruling Friday affirming a Vancouver clinic's right to operate under an exemption from drug laws was welcomed by outreach workers in Ottawa, but the city's police chief said he still opposes the clinics
Ottawa Police Chief Vern White has been an outspoken critic in the past of programs where drug paraphenalia was distributed to addicts. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

A Supreme Court ruling Friday that affirmed a Vancouver clinic's right to operate under an exemption from drug laws was welcomed by medical and outreach workers in Ottawa, but the city's police chief said he still opposes the introduction of a safe injection clinic in the city.

In a unanimous decision Friday, Vancouver's controversial Insite clinic will be allowed to stay open and that ending the exemption would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling potentially opens the doors for safe drug injection sites to be established in other municipalities.

The Supreme Court said that if the health minister, currently Leona Aglukkaq, receives applications for more exemptions, she must continue to exercise her discretion and aim to strike a balance between charter rights and protecting public health and safety.

Ottawa medical workers welcome decision

Ottawa doctor Mark Tyndall said Ottawa would benefit from such a facility.

"If your only option as a society is to track these people down and throw them in jail for a short period of time and throw them back on the streets in six months, then clearly it's not a sustainable or workable system," said Tyndall.

"This is a way to engage people in a structured health environment to deal with them where they are right now and to move them forward," he said.

Larry Langlois, an outreach worker in Ottawa, said the sites provide drug users an opportunity to interact with health professionals so when they do decide to get help for their addictions, they have people to turn to.

"To me it makes sense for people to have a safe place to do what they are going to do anyway," said Langlois.

Police chief says Ottawans won't support clinic

Ottawa Police chief Vern White on Friday reiterated his longstanding opposition to the programs, saying he would not support a safe injection site here.

"What happens in Vancouver will happen in Vancouver, but my bigger issue is that I would not support in the City of Ottawa and its something I don't believe Ottawans would support," said White.

White said the city has a difficult enough time affording residential treatment centres without the added costs of adding a safe injection site. He said, given limited funds, he would rather boost residential treatment centres.

White also said a safe injection site in Ottawa would be unwelcome in whatever neighbourhood it was established.

"People pay good money to live in nice areas around the Shepherd's and around the [Ottawa] Mission and they would not deserve to get what would happen if we had a supervised injection site. I tell you it would be travesty for the city."

 

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