OTTAWA – Proposed new rules for supervised drug injection sites will require advocates to take community opinions into account and gain the support of provincial and municipal authorities before they are allowed to set up clinics.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq tabled a bill today in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that ordered Ottawa to stop interfering with InSite in Vancouver.
The ruling has kept the Vancouver clinic open, but the new rules will make it more difficult for it to remain open.
“Our government believes that creating a location for sanctioned use of drugs obtained from illicit sources has the potential for great harm in a community,” Aglukkaq said in a news release.
“Accordingly, we believe that the application process needs to be changed to create formal opportunities for local voices to be heard and their views considered before an exemption would be considered.”
InSite supporters say the clinic’s presence has reduced fatal overdoses and connected drug addicts with the social services they need to improve their health, but no other city has yet set up a safe injection site.
Until now, such clinics required an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to operate.
The new rules add an additional set of requirements focused on getting input from local and provincial authorities.
Applicants must consult provincial ministers, local government, local police forces and provincial health authorities as well as doctors, nurses and a broad range of community groups.
They will need to show they are financial sustainable. And they will have to provide scientific evidence of medical benefits that would come from setting up a safe injection site.
Applicants will also have to predict impacts on public safety and set up procedures to mitigate the risk of harm to health, safety and security.
And they must take into account other drug treatment services available.
The Vancouver facility, if it wants to stay open, would have to meet all the new requirements and show how the site has already affected neighbourhood crime rates and individual and public health.
In a statement contained within the government press release, Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said he wants a high threshold for such sites.
“While treating drug addiction is an important goal, my experience in Vancouver is that these sites also lead to an increase in criminal behaviour and disorder in the surrounding community and have a significant impact on police resources,” he said.
The Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the Vancouver clinic could stay open — siding with its supporters who had argued that shutting down Insite would essentially deny health benefits to fragile drug addicts.
Groups in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal have suggested they want to open safe drug-injection clinics too, although they have met local resistance.