The University of Ottawa Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) and the Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) have joined together to lobby City Hall to bring a safe injection site to Ottawa.
Safe injection sites are supervised public health facilities where individuals can use their own drugs under medical supervision in a clean, hygienic environment.
“This is a clear example of an evidence-based policy that helps people’s lives, and is something that is happening, or should be happening, in our backyard,” said Seamus Wolfe, external commissioner for the GSAÉD.
The GSAÉD put forward a motion at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) national general meeting in November to support safe consumption sites, which passed with support from the GSA. This gave the GSAÉD the mandate from the CFS to pursue the issue.
Wolfe sent a letter on behalf of the GSAÉD to Mayor Jim Watson and federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose outlining the GSAÉD’s support for the sites.
“This is something that has worked all around the world and the only reason people are against it is fear-based policy rather than fact-based policy,” Wolfe said.
While there is support from the GSAÉD, both Watson and Chief of Police Charles Bordeleau are against a safe consumption site in Ottawa.
“Too many questions remain and, in the absence of a detailed plan and meaningful consultation with the people affected, I can only be opposed to the establishment of a site,” Bordeleau said in an official statement on Sept. 26.
According to the campaign, every 10 days an injection drug user in Ottawa dies of an overdose. Additionally, 11 per cent of Ottawa injection drug users have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and 60 per cent have contracted Hepatitis C. The campaign also references Insite, a safe consumption site in Vancouver, as a positive example of a functioning and effective safe injection site.
“I think the campaign that is going on in Ottawa is doing a really good job at getting out all the information on all the different benefits of the safe consumption sites,” said Lauren Montgomery, vp external for the GSA. “The information is getting out there and I really think we’re changing the attitudes of the community at large, and hopefully we can have a safer consumption site in Ottawa soon.”
To increase awareness about the campaign, Wolfe said the GSAÉD is looking to bring in speakers from Insite and will distribute information both on campus and online.