Canada’s federal Health Minister is promising changes to legislation are “coming soon” to make it easier for cities to open supervised injection sites.
After one year in power the federal Liberal government has failed to repeal the Harper government’s Respect for Communities Act which makes it much more onerous on cities to open such facilities.
Speaking at a Downtown Eastside fire department, Jane Philpott says that will change.
“I’ve made it clear to my officials that I do not want there to be any unnecessary barriers to supervised consumption sites in communities who ask for them,” she said.
But asked what “soon” meant, Philpott couldn’t say.
Former MP Libby Davies says she’s frustrated with the wait.
“I really don’t know why it has taken them so long to boot that legislation out and bring whatever they need to bring,” she said.
That’s a sentiment echoed by DTES fire hall captain Glen Livingstone, who says the amount of dirty and dangerous needles on the neighbourhood’s streets is growing, while conditions deteriorate.
He says he’d like to see the Liberals go one step further than supervised consumption sites.
“If it was up to me and the rest of the people that think like me, I would call it medicine, and I would be dosing it out and making sure it was clean, and taking control of the administration of the drug, and ultimately I would take the needle after it was used and dispose of it properly,” he said.
Dean Wilson, a volunteer at the drug user resource centre near Oppenheimer Park, approached the health minister at the event to lament the centre’s closure.
He says it will amalgamate with a mental health centre at the end of December.
“I’ve kept my mouth shut for awhile but I’m not going to anymore. This is too important, too many people are dying. I’m incredibly fearful because they will not gravitate over to the new centre, it is not what they are looking for,” he said.
555 people died in British Columbia from overdoses in the first nine months of the year.