OTTAWA – Health Canada has authorized three supervised injection sites in Montreal as the federal government looks to address the opioid crisis.
“This will have an important impact and it will absolutely save lives,” Health Minister Jane Philpott said outside the Commons on Monday.
Canada currently has two drug injection sites — both in Vancouver — and existing laws allow such sites to operate only in exceptional circumstances.
Health Canada is still reviewing 10 additional applications for injection sites, Philpott said, noting there are three from Toronto, two from Vancouver, two from Surrey, B.C., one from Victoria, one from Ottawa and one for a mobile site in Montreal.
“Every application is in a different stage of the process and our department is working very actively with all 10 additional applicants to make sure that all the criteria are met,” she said.
Currently, applicants for new injection sites must provide medical and scientific evidence of benefit, along with letters from provincial health ministers, local police and regional health officials.
In December, the Liberal government announced legislative amendments designed to remove 26 requirements for supervised injection sites introduced under the previous government.
The changes will make it easier for supervised injection sites to be established while adhering to criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada, Philpott said.
Her department says international and Canadian evidence shows injection sites, if operated properly, can save lives without increasing drug use or crime in surrounding areas.
“There’s not one single item that will resolve the opioid crisis,” Philpott said. “It requires a response that is comprehensive that addresses prevention, harm reduction, treatment and law enforcement.”