Winnipeg city council has narrowly approved exploring all options to create a supervised drug consumption site.
By a vote of nine in favour, including Mayor Brian Bowman, and six against, city council approved having the civic bureaucracy explore funding, partnership and implementation alternatives to establish "a low-barrier, supervised drug consumption site."
The motion doesn't commit council to adding one.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, a champion of the sites, argued they offer a clear way to prevent overdoses and save lives.
"Harm-reduction and the continuum of services like on-demand, safe consumption, absolutely, is a continuum that governments should be discussing, in particular, in Winnipeg," said Rollins.
At supervised consumption sites, people can consume illegal drugs under medical supervision.
Mayor Brian Bowman said he supports studying the issue to determine if evidence can prove that such a site would be effective. If that evidence is found, the mayor said he wouldn’t stand in the way of one.
"I think when you’re looking at a health issue, like addictions, I think you should be guided by data and by science," he said.
However, some councillors argued against the motion, saying it was a health issue that should be handled by the provincial government, while also fearing the sites could have unwanted side effects. Coun. Kevin Klein said higher levels of crime were reported in some Alberta neighbourhoods that had safe drug consumption sites, which he fears could be repeated in Winnipeg.
"There was more public use of drugs in that 250-metre radius (around the sites). Calgary police… showed a significant increase in crime and drug crimes," said Klein.
While Calgary police did link increases in drug-related activity, violence and vehicle crimes in 2018 to a local safe injection site, health experts credited the same centre with preventing hundreds of overdoses during the same period.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.