Advocates for the safe use of illicit drugs on Prince Edward Island are urging the province to set up an emergency site that would temporarily provide a secure place for those who use illegal substances.
Safe injection sites are located across the country — most of them supervised. And while staff do not supply or administer illegal drugs to people, they are there to watch and help if anything goes wrong.
"There is definitely a population of folks who are consuming illicit substances outside, who are consuming illicit substances alone," said Angele DesRoches, the program co-ordinator with PEERS Alliance, in an interview with CBC.
"The way that we address substance use in our country and in our province creates an environment where folks who are consuming feel like they have to hide."
'Impacted a lot of Island families'
PEERS Alliance is a charitable non-profit organization that works to help promote harm-reduction strategies for those who use drugs in hopes of decreasing the risk.
On Wednesday, its leaders told a legislative committee the group wants a supervised injection site in Charlottetown.
The groups said it also wants the site staffed by trained health workers and equipped with emergency overdose supplies, such as naloxone kits and defibrillators.
"At the base I think folks need to acknowledge that people who use drugs matter," said DesRoches.
"We all know somebody who consumes illicit substances and that substance use and harms have impacted a lot of Island families."
In December 2020, the city of Charlottetown made the decision to seal off the entrance to a tunnel that goes under Water Street. At the time the city said the tunnel was being used as a place to inject drugs and posed a risk to the public.
And while PEERS Alliance told the committee that culvert was an unsafe site, the group said getting rid of it didn't solve any problems.
Charlottetown police Chief Paul Smith said he also supports the idea of supervised injection sites.
"When you have a site you can have less public consumption because now people have a place where they can go," he said.
"It would reduce needle discard in public spaces."
Smith said there are those that think it's just enabling this behaviour and others who don't want a site in their neighbourhood.
However, he said, "at the end of the day it's just part of a broader harm-reduction strategy to go forward."
The health committee will take its recommendations to the legislature in the coming months.
More from CBC P.E.I.