Technology & Science

Safe-injection sites to open in Que.

An addiction support group in Quebec has announced a controversial plan to open two supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users, with or without government approval.

An addiction support group in Quebec has announced a controversial plan to open two supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users, with or without government approval.

The community group Cactus Montreal made the announcement to offer clean needles on Wednesday, World AIDS Day, to draw attention to the problem of HIV transmission through intravenous drug use.

The Supreme Court of Canada is set to rule on the legality of a similar injection site in Vancouver next spring.

The group is preparing to open safe injection sites in Montreal and Quebec City next June, with or without the province's consent, said Louis Letellier de St-Just, founder of Cactus and president of the group's board.

"The need is in the street," Letellier de St-Just said. "Here in Montreal we do have between 15,000 and 20,000 intravenous drug users. So what we are doing now is good but not enough."

For the past 20 years, Cactus has run a needle exchange program based on the same harm-reduction model as safe injection sites.

An article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in August concluded Vancouver's safe injection site for drug addicts, Insite, is doing what it is supposed to in terms of increasing the number of addicts who accessed detoxification and addiction treatment services.

The paper's authors called on the federal government to step aside and abandon its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Critics, including the federal Conservative government, say Insite encourages drug use. In 2008, then Health Minister Tony Clement said the best way to deal with the health issues faced by drug addicts is to offer treatment and prevent their addictions in the first place.

It's not yet clear how either the federal government or Quebec government will respond Cactus's move.

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