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Montreal opens first of three supervised-injection sites

Louis Letellier de St-Just, chairman of CACTUS, a local community health organization, stands in front of one of Montreal’s new supervised injection sites on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The first of three supervised injection sites for Montreal drug users opened its doors Monday, with one official estimating it will handle between 120 and 240 injections a day.

The site will be open 12 hours a day, CACTUS Montreal spokesman Louis Letellier de St-Just said in an interview.

"It's been a long journey," he said, referring to a Supreme Court ruling from 2011.

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"The (court) said that addiction was a disease and safe injection sites were health services and they were needed where the needs are."

Letellier de St-Just said the second Montreal site will open in the coming days, while the third should be up and running in the fall.

He pointed out that a mobile unit also began operating Monday and will travel around the city to areas where needs are most pressing.

Letellier de St-Just noted there are between 4,000 and 5,000 drug injection users in Montreal.

"The most important thing is that they will be now welcome and they will have access to a safe injecting place," he said.

On its website, CACTUS Montreal describes itself as a community organization for the prevention of blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections.

It said it works "with injecting and inhaling drug users, sex workers, and trans people."

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In February, Health Canada authorized the three supervised injection locations in Montreal, adding to existing sites in Vancouver.

Three supervised sites were also recently approved in Toronto.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has said Canadian and international evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites save lives without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area.

She said the safe injection sites are part of the government's approach to combating the current overdose epidemic.

The Ontario government announced in January it is committed to funding the three supervised injection sites in Toronto and one in Ottawa.

Toronto city council has already approved the supervised injection sites, which are estimated to cost $1.6 million a year to operate.

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Video: Trudeau says Canadian governments ‘won’t rest’ on opioid crisis (The Canadian Press)
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