Dear Mayor Watson,
We at the Carleton University Graduate Student’s Association (GSA), who represent approximately 4,000 graduate students, would like to show our support for the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s initiative to open a supervised injection site (SIS) at its Rideau Street location.
There are approximately 5,600 injection drug users in Ottawa, of which 11% are infected with HIV and 70% are infected with Hepatitis C. The highest rate of new HIV infections in the province is found here in Ottawa and can be linked to injection drug use. There is also an average of 40 overdose deaths annually in this city, which is a death approximately every eight days.
The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre already operates a needle exchange program, which serves approximately 700 users annually, and expects an increase in participation at the centre if a SIS were to open. A SIS allows injection drug users a clean space with clean equipment to take their drug and do so under the supervision of a nurse, which can prevent the spread of disease, keep drug users alive, and provide access to first aid and addictions treatment.
Mr. Watson, you and Ottawa Police Service Chief Charles Bordeleau are opposed to the development of this site for fear of an “uptake in crime”, however there is documented evidence that rates of arrest for drug trafficking, assaults, and robbery remained similar after the opening of Vancouver’s SIS, Insite, and a significant decrease in rates of vehicle breaks-ins/theft.
We understand the written approval of both yourself and the Police Chief are essential for Oasis to apply for a federal pardon of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act in the proposed location of the SIS and so we urge you to change your position on this life saving and life changing approach to drug treatment.
We believe that it is essential that the public health sector moves away from an abstinence only paradigm and adopt a harm reduction strategy that includes initiatives like supervised inject sites to reduce the spread of infection, prevent death and injury due to over consumption of drugs, and provide access to first aid and addiction recovery programs.
Graduate Students’ Association
Local 78, Canadian Federation of Students