Door to safe consumption sites in Manitoba may be unlocked


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FOR the first time, the Progressive Conservative government has indicated the door to safe consumption sites might be opening in Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/04/2022 (399 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FOR the first time, the Progressive Conservative government has indicated the door to safe consumption sites might be opening in Manitoba.

After supporting second reading of an NDP private member’s bill to proclaim the Sunday before Mother’s Day “Drug-Related Death Bereavement Day,” the minister of mental health and community wellness told reporters the province is willing to talk “about everything that’s happening in other jurisdictions.”

The bill to proclaim bereavement day was proposed to MLA Bernadette Smith by some of the families who’ve been unofficially marking it for several years. It would be a day to reflect on the impact of drugs in Manitoba and to grieve those lost to drugs, said the member for Point Douglas.

NDP MLA Bernadette Smith has introduced a bill to proclaim a Drug-Related Death Bereavement Day in Manitoba. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“This day would be about reducing stigma, as well, around drug use,” Smith told reporters after question period Thursday.

The NDP MLA has long advocated for safe consumption sites for drug use and has another bill before the house — Fatality Inquiries Amendment Act (Overdose Death Reporting) — that would require the timely reporting of overdose deaths in Manitoba and public notification of the kind of drugs that are killing people.

Smith said her brother-in-law died from an overdose of a powerful drug referred to as “down” in November; 407 Manitobans died of an overdose in 2021, 387 died in 2020.

Smith said she’s visited four safe consumption sites in three other provinces in the last three years, where there have been no reported deaths and those who use them have a better chance of recovery.

“It connects people with resources they need,” she said.

The PC government under former premier Brian Pallister didn’t embrace that harm reduction strategy. Smith said the current PC government under Premier Heather Stefanson hasn’t indicated allowing safe consumption sites in Manitoba is a direction she’s willing to take.

“I always hold out hope,” the NDP critic for mental health and addictions said.

The minister of the Department of Mental Health and Community Wellness, created after Stefanson took over as premier in November, suggested Manitoba may be considering safe consumption sites.

“The door is open to harm reduction strategies and talking about everything that is happening in other jurisdictions,” Sarah Guillemard said outside the chamber Thursday. “And we will make sure that Manitoba is well suited to support those in need.”

Guillemard said she thinks safe consumption sites can work: “If they’re used in conjunction with strong core services, there can be a place for that, connecting those who are struggling with substance use with resources to help them to move away from the substances and more towards healing and healthy living.”

The minister said she is meeting with organizations and community advocates in plotting a five-year road map to improve mental health and addiction recovery services. “It really is important that we get this right, and I’m determined to be a part of getting it right.”

In the meantime, the bill to make Drug-Related Death Bereavement Day official won’t be proclaimed in time for observance this year, government house leader Kelvin Goertzen said.

“The house is adjourned until May 9, and the bill has several stages of the legislative process remaining,” he said Thursday in an email.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.


Updated on Friday, April 29, 2022 7:30 AM CDT: Adds photo

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