Senator wants Sandy Hill supervised injection site to offer drug replacement therapy

Conservative Senator Vernon White wants supervised injection sites, like the one planned for Sandy Hill, to offer drug replacement therapy to drug users.

Senator Vern White believes offering drug users pharmaceutical replacements will keep them safer, reduce crime

Health Canada has granted an exemption that paves the way for Ottawa's first supervised injection site to open in the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre as early as October. (CBC)

Conservative Senator Vernon White wants supervised injection sites, like the one planned for Sandy Hill, to offer drug replacement therapy to drug users.

The former Ottawa police chief believes offering drug users a pharmaceutical alternative to dangerous street drugs will keep them safer and reduce organized crime.

"I certainly do not support a supervised consumption site that supports organized crime, street vendors and illegal drugs going into the hands of addicts," he said. 

"It just doesn't make sense to me."

Give methadone, dilaudid instead

Earlier this year, White introduced an amendment to Bill C-37 that would have required doctors at supervised injection sites to offer substitute pharmaceuticals to drug users. The Liberals rejected it.​

Senator Vern White said the illegal substances being brought into supervised injection sites are dangerous and support organized crime. (Stu Mills/CBC)

White said supervised injection sites will not deter drug users from buying illegal drugs and committing crimes to support their habits unless they are offered a safer alternative. 

"They're going to be committing crimes near that facility and the people in Sandy Hill are going to be the victims of that crime. The better answer is to provide replacement drug therapy," he said.

"A methadone clinic is a supervised consumption site. It's a location where people go and use opioids legally. We have half a dozen of those in the city now and nobody knows about them because there's no criminal activity attached to it," said White.

Drug injection kits like this one would be handed out to drug users at a safe injection site. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"It already is a supervised consumption site of only one opioid. My argument is, provide other options. In some cases it might be dilaudid. In some cases it might be some of the drugs that are being used in Switzerland very successfully."

On Wednesday, Health Canada gave the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre the green light to build a supervised injection site at its Nelson Street headquarters.

The community centre has proposed a facility that would provide supervised injections to between 80 and 150 people per day.