Group advocates for safe injection site in Ottawa

By: Aedan Helmer

Ottawa Sun

September 30th 2015

She was a nurse who got hooked on prescription painkillers after a serious car crash, and when she lost the services of her doctor, turned to the streets to feed her addiction.

“That’s how I found out about Ottawa’s underground,” she said, sharing her story (though not her name) for the first time at Wednesday’s symposium on supervised injection sites (SIS), hosted at the University of Ottawa.

“If there would have been something like (Vancouver’s supervised injection site) Insite at that time, maybe I would have gotten out sooner.”

Instead, seven years of her life spiraled out of control, her nursing career crushed under the weight of the criminal record now shadowing her.

Her story was one of many shared by panelists at the community discussion, launched by the Campaign for Safe Consumption Sites in Ottawa on the fourth anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court ruling that advocates cite as proof of Insite’s “positive impact on the surrounding community and (as) a cost-saving measure.”

Along with speakers from Nurses for SIS and the Drug Users Advocacy League (DUAL), organizers shared findings of a study conducted by Participatory Research in Ottawa Understanding Drugs (PROUD), which surveyed 858 Ottawa drug users.

“People say we aren’t Vancouver, and they’re right, but we do share the need for safe injection sites,” said Rick S. of DUAL, citing the recent increase in use of fentanyl — often with a tragic outcome — as evidence of the need for supervised injection sites.

“People are dropping dead from this stuff,” he said. “And the first thing we need to do is to keep these people alive and safe. And you can’t rope them in, you have to let them come to you.”

There wasn’t much dissent at Wednesday’s event, though organizer and advocate Catherine Hacksel said she invited opponents to have their say as well.

“Don’t be shy to talk to us,” she said. “Once you talk to people about the issue and destygmatize it, folks are much more willing to open their minds.”

And while Hacksel said she’s worked hard to engage all community partners, she still finds herself “at arm’s length” from an important potential partner in the Ottawa police.

“Given that we’re so often working with the same people, it would be great to work together,” she said.

Police Chief Charles Bordeleau and Mayor Jim Watson have both previously voiced their opposition to a supervised injection site in Ottawa.

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PROUD out Loud Volume 10: September 2015

Prescription and Illicit Drug Use


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Supervised Injection Services Discussion


September 30th, 2015 is the 4th year since the Supreme Court of Canada made the decision to keep Vancouver’s Insite open.

The PROUD study will be releasing our latest newsletter in partnership with the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites Ottawa (CSCS)

CSCS will be hosting a community discussion with students, nurses, activists, researchers, and people who use drugs on the need for supervised consumption services in Ottawa.

Time: Wednesday, September 30at 11:30am – 1:30pm
Location: 147B Fauteux Hall, Louis Pasteur, University of Ottawa Campus, Osgoode at King Edward
R.S.V.P. on Facebook

Refreshments provided as well as whisper translation in French

Partner agencies:
•Association des étudiants(es) en service social (ADESS)
•Coaltion of Nurses and Nursing Students for Supervised Injection Services
•Drug User Advocacy League (DUAL)
•Participatory Research in Ottawa: Understanding Drugs (PROUD)
•AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO)

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Drugs and Community Based Reserch Ethics

A ‘know your rights’ Guide for people who use drugs who are involved with Community Based Research.
Follow the link below to learn more.

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Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network Communique

Canadian HIVAIDS legal network

August 28, 2015

Drug Policy, Overdose Awareness, and the Federal Election

It’s been a busy summer for Canadians with federal election campaigns now well underway. Interestingly, harm reduction services, the legalization of cannabis, and drug policy writ large have been prominent issues in the news — and we hope these critical human rights issues will remain front and centre.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be connecting with each of the political parties to see where they stand on many of the issues we work on — the issues you care about — and we’ll be sharing our findings with you shortly. In the meantime, we hope you’ll take a minute to peruse the following resources on drug policy, in Canada and abroad:
• Our Q&A on Bill C-2, the so-called Respect for Communities Act, which recently became law and affects the future operation of supervised consumption services in Canada; and
• The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy’s #CannabisClaims reports.

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event that aims to raise awareness on the stigma that still deeply affects people who use drugs and commemorates the lives lost to the failed war on drugs. You can get involved with International Overdose Awareness Day in your community by attending an event and following the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #OD15.

Wishing you a great end of summer,
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Sign the Dignity Initiative’s Call to Action

Canadian civil society organizations, we need your signature! Read the Call to Action from the Dignity Initiative, “How Canada Can Defend and Promote Fundamental Human Rights for LGBTI People Around the World,” and please add your signature here. The endorsed Call to Action will be released to all political parties in mid-September. For more information, click here

Remembering Pete Collins

We are remembering Peter (Pete) Collins, an important activist for the health and human rights of people in prison. Pete passed away from cancer on August 13, 2015, in Bath Institution near Kingston, Ontario, having been denied compassionate release by the Parole Board of Canada, despite many appeals. Read more about Pete here.

International Harm Reduction Conference

Harm Reduction International and the Malaysian AIDS Council are holding the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference in Kuala Lumpur from October 18-21, 2015. The four-day event will bring together some 1,000 people from 70 countries to participate in a diverse and exciting programme of panel and group discussions, training workshops, and film/video presentations. Read the schedule and register Here

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De l’aide juridique pour les démunis

Ticket defence day

By: Jean-Francois Dugas

Le Droit

26 juin 2015

Des avocats et des étudiants en droit de l’Université d’Ottawa se sont improvisé un cabinet d’avocats en plein air, hier, au parc Minto du centre-ville d’Ottawa afin d’offrir leurs services gratuitement aux plus démunis de la société cherchant à obtenir une aide dans leur lutte pour contester des contraventions.

« Les personnes qui ont reçu des constats d’infraction pour mendicité ou des amendes municipales pour avoir enfreint des règlements municipaux ne peuvent évidemment pas payer pour leur infraction. L’aide d’aujourd’hui, une première publiquement, est une façon de combattre le système », a expliqué Chris Dalton, un porte-parole de l’événement qui oeuvre au sein du groupe d’intervention d’Ottawa nommé PROUD.

Les mendiants plus obstinés, comme les squeegees ont particulièrement été ciblés par la Loi sur la sécurité dans les rues, en vigueur depuis 1999 en Ontario. Plusieurs groupes de pression et même des politiciens militent toujours pour son abolition, rappelle M. Dalton.

« Cette loi apporte une criminalisation plus accrue des personnes vivant déjà dans la pauvreté. J’ai dû déchirer plusieurs contraventions que je ne pouvais payer », a commenté à cet effet Brian Lyons, qui a connu sa part de déboires quand il habitait dans les rues d’Ottawa par le passé.

PROUD, qui vise à mieux comprendre la santé et le risque d’infections du VIH parmi les usagers de drogues, a d’ailleurs découvert que bon nombre de personnes opprimées avaient été ciblées par les forces de l’ordre dans le cadre d’une étude auprès de quelque 850 consommateurs.

« Les gens qui ont une dépendance ont besoin de plus de soutien, pas d’être punis davantage », a signalé M. Dalton, avouant que la guerre contre les drogues exige des changements systémiques.

L’initiative de mobilisation « Debout contre les contraventions » fait partie de la campagne mondiale « Soutenez. Ne punissez pas » qui se déroulera aujourd’hui dans plusieurs pays.

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Social Work in Public Health publication

Harnessing the Power of Community-Based Participatory Research: Examining Knowledge, Action, and Consciousness in the PROUD Study
By: Daina Stanley, Zack Marshall, Lisa Lazarus, Sean LeBlanc, Tarah Heighton, Beverley Preater & Mark Tyndall

Link to article:

Social work in public health

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New report suggests Ottawa drug users would benefit from safe injection site

0508 drugs6.jpg

By Andrew Duffy

Ottawa Citizen

May 8th 2015

A new study suggests a significant number of Ottawa’s most serious drug addicts would use a safe injection site if one ever opened in this city.

The study, prepared for a group that wants to bring at least two safe injection sites to Ottawa, found that 75.4 per cent of surveyed addicts said they would be prepared to use a facility where they could inject drugs with clean needles under medical supervision.

That level of participation would reduce overdose deaths and offer huge health benefits to drug users, who suffer high rates of HIV and Hepatitis-C, while also improving the safety of downtown streets made hazardous by discarded needles, advocates said Thursday at a community meeting held to discuss the study.

“I think it shows that, contrary to popular belief, drug users are actually interested in their health,” said Rob Boyd, director of a program at Sandy Hill Community Health Centre that offers harm reduction and health services to drug users and sex workers.

“I think it shows they’re interested in ways of using drugs that are less harmful and that they don’t want to be using drugs publicly,” he said. “We all want a solution to drug use on the curb.”

The study is based on interviews with 858 crack cocaine and injection drug users, about two-thirds of whom live in the downtown core. Developed in consultation with people who use drugs, the study aims to better understand the city’s population of addicts and the impact of HIV on them.

Participants completed a one-time questionnaire that touched on a broad range of topics, including drug history, harm reduction, health status, access to treatment, sexual activities, police interactions and housing.

Such studies are notoriously difficult to conduct because drug users often don’t like to enrol. The Ottawa study represents one of the largest studies of its kind in Canada.

Most (74.4 per cent) of the participants were men and a significant proportion (18.2 per cent) identified as Aboriginal. The median age was 43.

Among the 272 participants who said they had injected drugs in the past year, 14.2 per cent were HIV positive and 18.5 per cent said they had engaged in sex work. A sizable majority (74.6 per cent) also reported having a mental health diagnosis.

About half of the men and 59 per cent of women said they would use a safe injection site daily.

Boyd said the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre intends to apply to the federal government for an exemption from drug laws that would allow it to open a safe injection site. But he conceded that application will likely be made more difficult if the Conservative government’s Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act, becomes law.

“I think we just have to make an application for an exemption no matter what happens,” he said. “There’s a clear willingness to use this type of service and I think there’s an obligation on us to make an attempt.”

Bill C-2, the government’s response to a 2011 Supreme Court decision that preserved Vancouver’s Insite drug clinic, is now before the Senate. Advocates say the new law undermines the court ruling by setting out”excessive and unreasonable” requirements for applicants that want to open a new safe injection site. Such applications must solicit written opinions about the proposed site from the mayor, the police chief, the chief medical officer and the relevant provincial minister.

In Ottawa, both the mayor and police chief have expressed opposition to a safe-injection site.

Ottawa resident Dave Pineau, 54, contracted HIV 30 years ago while sharing needles with a group of friends in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. At the time, he said, users could buy a new needle for $10 or a used one for $5. “I know that sounds horrible, but that’s just the way it was,” he said.

Pineau said a safe injection site would allow users to employ safe equipment and protect themselves against fatal overdoses. “If they OD by themselves, there’s no one there to help them through it: to perform CPR or whatever,” said Pineau, who suffered a near fatal overdose in 2003. “I did a really strong hit and I overdosed. I fought through it. But I was just lucky.”

He said a safe injection site is desperately needed: “Drug users are people, too, and this is what health care looks like for them.”

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Q&A: Are Supervised Injection Sites effective?


By Dani-elle Dube

Ottawa SUN

May 7th 2015

Supervised Injection Sites, or SIS, has been a contentious issue in Ottawa for almost a decade decade.

Some see them located in Ottawa neighbourhoods as a cause for concern, others see it as a solution to the city’s drug problem.

On Thursday, members of the Participatory Research in Ottawa: Understanding Drugs (or PROUD) released results of their city-wide survey relating to SIS. The study surveyed 858 drug users between March 2013 and January 2014.

The Sun spoke with Chris Dalton, knowledge translation co-ordinator of the study, to discuss the results and what they mean to the study group, drug users and communities.

Q: What do the results of the study show and tell you?

A: The data shows that people in Ottawa who are affected by addiction are the people who want and need these sites in order to feel safe and be healthy by not sharing dirty needles and spreading diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C.

Q: Why does Ottawa need a SIS?

A: Addiction is like any other disease out there. These people have a health problem and they need treatment that is humane, compassionate and proven to work.

Q: The study revealed that 58% of Ottawa drug users felt unsafe in the location they were currently injecting and that 84% would feel safe using an SIS. But what will be done to ensure that the community feels safe?

A: Studies done in Vancouver reported that there was no evidence of increased crime in the area where an SIS was located. Right now what’s going on in our neighbourhoods where there is homelessness and drug use, you’re going to have (an increase in crime) in the public. People are using in public bathrooms, backyards and alleys right now so it’s actually less safe. Education is key and we hope to provide communities with that so misconceptions are avoided and they feel safe.

Q: Almost 40% surveyed said they had used a needle that had been used by someone else before. How will SIS sites make sure that users don’t continue to share needles on the street when they’re not using the services?

A: If we had a 24-hour site open, then the service will always be available with new gear and would help solve a large part of that problem. We see this as an alarming statistic that shows how much we need this service because we don’t believe people will reuse syringes if they’re in a safe and healthy facility with plenty of needles available. People want to be healthy. People don’t want to contract HIV or Hep C, overdose or die. So if we can help them to prevent those things from happening then we’re saving lives.

Q: About 48% of men and 59% of women surveyed said they would use an SIS daily. Is this the solution Ottawa and drug users need as opposed to making more resources available that will help them get clean?

A: Treatment is great for people who want to do it. But if you force people into treatment, often people aren’t successful in the long term. We need to provide a space for people so that, until they’re ready for treatment and decide that’s what they want to do, they can still be safe where they’re using while making healthy choices by using clean gear. But the only choices users have is to stop using and get treatment or to use in the street with dirty needles and get kicked out of the shelters. We need a middle ground that can help and provide services to people who need it.


72% of male participants and 83% of female participants think there should be an SIS in Ottawa

Among the participants who would use an SIS

– 91% of participants had been homeless at one point in their life

– 10% self-reported testing HIV positive

– 70% think there should be an SIS in the Byward Market/Lowertown areas

A follow up study was done in the summer of 2014. It surveyed 136 participants who had injected drugs within the last 30 days.

– 66% injected in public

– 58% felt unsafe due to the location where they were currently injecting

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PROUD out LOUD Volume 9: May 2015





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