Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott announced this week that she would be reducing the barriers to opening more safe drug injection sites.
The move comes as the country is experiencing a Fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl is essentially synthetic heroin, but it is far more likely to make you overdose or result in death.
The problem got so bad this spring in BC, we had to declare a public health emergency.
(And Alberta is facing a crisis right now, too; you can watch Sheila Gunn Reid’s video on that for more details.)
And while it’s true that safe injection sites are undoubtedly safer for drug users, they also prevent any gentrification in the neighbourhood — and fail to decrease drug usage.
I know this because Insite, the first safe injection site in our country, is right here in Vancouver on our notorious Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver is unique in that our skid row is by far the worst in the country, and we are a port city, so intravenous drug use will always be an issue. But what about the rest of Canada? Could a safe injection site be coming to your community?
Last year, the Conservative government passed the Respect for Communities Act which required 26 criteria to be met before the government can approve a new safe injection site.
But Minister Philpott has directed staff this week to look at those 26 criteria and remove or amend anything that poses an unnecessary barrier.
Some action from the federal government is needed to deal with the Fentanyl crisis, but approving safe injection sites across our country would be only enabling a cycle of drug use and addiction.
Instead, we should target the criminal organizations that are synthesizing this drug and put them away with tough sentences.