December 09, 2016

Federal government loosens supervised injection site restrictions

Supervised injection site: BILL C-37

With the opioid overdose crisis showing no signs of slowing down, the federal government is moving to ease restrictions on supervised injections sites.

Minister of Health Jane Philpott says the government will fully repeal the Harper Government’s Bill C-2, seen as a roadblock to the creation of the facilities.

Philpott says the sites save lives.

The move comes as a part of the federal Liberals’ new Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, in which harm reduction takes on a more prominent role in a four-pillars strategy to fight drug use and addiction.

Enforcement, prevention, and treatment make up the other pillars.

The Feds announced Bill C-37 today which reduces the number requirements needed to open supervised injection sites from 26, down to just 5.

Prospective sites will also need to prove an overriding public health need for the consumption site, as well as demonstrate it won’t harm public safety in the community.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she’s “delighted” by the move.

“It’s a crisis in this problem, and we needed their help,” Clark said in a video posted to Twitter.

“This is not something that any government can do alone, and they’ve responded to all of our requests, and we’re grateful that Ottawa is there to make sure that British Columbians, and British Colubmian young people in particular are better protected and better cared for.”

It’s a move B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake is also applauding.

“We’ve been writing to the Minister, the former Minister and this Minister about safe consumption sites and the terrible barriers that existed before so seeing us going from 26 criteria down to 5, simplifying that, means we can get these consumption sites open sooner,” Lake said.

Lake says federal Health Minister Jane Philpott “understood” why B.C. couldn’t wait any longer.

The move comes just days after B.C. did an end run around supervised injection site rules by unveiling new “overdose prevention sites” in the Downtown Eastside, Victoria, and Surrey.

New restrictions

The supervised consumption site changes aren’t the only tweak in the legislation.

Health Canada will now be required to approve every pill press brought into the country, and border guards will be permitted to inspect packages weighing less than 30 grams, if they are believed to contain drugs.

It will also criminalise transporting anything meant to be used to produce illegal drugs, and allow for the temporary addition of new psychoactive chemicals to the list of controlled substances.


Bill C-37 would instead require those wishing to set up a safe injection site, to meet five benchmarks:

  1. Demonstration of the need for such a site to exist.
  2. Demonstration of appropriate consultation of the community.
  3. Presentation of evidence on whether the site will impact crime in the community.
  4. Ensuring regulatory systems are in place.
  5. Site proponents will need to prove appropriate resources are in place.
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