Results of a local study on the feasibility of safe consumption sites for illicit drugs seem to have little impact on the provincial government's view on their suitability for Winnipeg.

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Results of a local study on the feasibility of safe consumption sites for illicit drugs seem to have little impact on the provincial government's view on their suitability for Winnipeg.

The Manitoba NDP tabled the Safer Consumption Spaces study in the legislature Monday. The study was conducted over the past year by a working group of a dozen public health officials and front-line workers, with financial help from the federal government.

The working group included members of Manitoba's health department, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, plus non-profit workers from Sunshine House and the Bear Clan Patrol.

Although they didn't offer a concrete recommendation about whether Winnipeg needs a safe consumption site — which advocates say could help reduce the likelihood of overdose deaths and the spread of blood-borne illnesses through dirty syringes — the report's authors found people who use drugs need safer spaces of all kinds.

"Lack of safe spaces in which to sleep, eat, be high, meet with friends, have fun, and to access care and services were described. More than 50 per cent of the participants had no permanent residence, and were prohibited or excluded from many public spaces in their neighbourhood," the report's authors wrote.

"Large proportions of participants indicated that they would likely use recreational services, rapid access addiction medicine clinics, harm-reduction supplies, and supervised consumption services if they were available, or more readily available."

The study's working group did consultations with 38 people who use drugs and found about 80 per cent of them would be likely or very likely to use supervised consumption services, if available.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen was asked whether the perspectives of those who use drugs should be at the forefront of public policy decisions the province makes.

<p>The pages of a report on safe consumption sites on the floor behind Pallister at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Monday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The pages of a report on safe consumption sites on the floor behind Pallister at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Monday.

"Our government is prioritizing good investments that move the needle and make a difference and get people off of illicit drugs, and seek to support them in that journey towards wellness," he said.

The minister also reiterated there's a "wide variety of opinion" on the appropriateness of a safe consumption site in Winnipeg, and pointed out the study lacked a conclusive proposal either way.

"Our premier has been very clear: there really is no such thing as a ‘safe’ methamphetamine injection site," Friesen said.

When NDP Leader Wab Kinew introduced the study in the house, Premier Brian Pallister tossed his copy on the floor behind him.

After question period however, he did pick it up and give it a read, alongside Friesen. Kinew said the move was short-sighted.

"I think the government’s actions speak very loudly and clearly on this topic. The premier himself threw the report on the floor," the Opposition leader said.

"(The Progressive Conservatives) have a predetermined outcome in mind. They don’t want a safe consumption site, even though this report is telling them it has so many public health benefits, that it would be used and that service providers support it," Kinew said.

"To me, that’s putting ideology ahead of standing up for Manitobans and fighting the addictions crisis."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu