P.E.I. continues to fight for safe consumption site

Dec 1, 2023

In late September, Charlottetown councillors voted against a potential supervised consumption site location on Park street, near a temporary emergency shelter. Subsequently, in October, the Prince Edward Island government said in an email correspondence with CBC News that it will not appeal the City of Charlottetown’s decision to reject this proposed location. 

“By working together as provincial and municipal governments, we can address challenges like homelessness and addictions and mental health, and create healthy and safe communities,” reads the email. “The province will continue to work with the Community Harm Reduction Steering Committee (which includes city council members, police and those with lived experience). P.E.I. will continue to explore all the options to implement evidence-based harm reduction strategies that support community wellness and reduce negative impacts on people who use substances.”

The email also provided examples of such strategies, including the following: 

  • promotion of a national drug overdose prevention hotline called NORS as well as the Brave app for people who use drugs while alone;
  • clean needle exchange;
  • harm reduction dispensing machines;
  • take-home naloxone kit distribution and distribution of drug testing strips.

Furthermore, the Park Street location for the proposed supervised injection site was the second site to be rejected in less than a year. 

The first proposed site was 33 Belmont Street, located across from Charlottetown’s food bank, with PEERS Alliance contracted to run the consumption site. For both proposed locations, residents living in their vicinity protested, leading to the sites’ rejection.

According to Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly, the supervised injection project has been a “mismanaged disaster.”

“As a result, we’re seeing a community become divided, we’re seeing people struggling getting worse, and we’re seeing two levels of government that need to work together unable to get on the same page,” he said in a statement. “Government’s lack of action has demonstrated a shocking lack of responsibility and empathy for struggling Islanders.”

In his interview with CBC News, Charlottetown resident Karson McKeown, who resides in the Park Street area, said  that while he understands the need for a safe injection site, “no one wants it in their neck of the woods,” especially if local residents have already faced issues from the nearby emergency shelter.

McKeown also added that the local residents want to live on a quiet street, but clients of the local emergency shelter are often shouting outside. “We have drug users on the street… and people are kind of falling asleep on lawns and stuff like that.”