An article recently published by CBC News discussed two cases of Montreal women being denied drug testing after suspected drugging.
The first woman, Lea (not her real name, which was withheld by CBC News for privacy purposes), aged 27, was confident she was drugged after visiting a bar in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood. She does not recall anything that had happened to her after her third drink, and subsequently woke up feeling disoriented and terrified in her bed at home.
Lea had initially gone to a hospital emergency room but left due to the long waiting times, due to the limited time window of detection for gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a drug commonly used in drink-spiking. In fact, GHB can only be detected in the blood for six hours, and in urine for up to 12 hours following consumption, according to Quebec’s Health Ministry.
Subsequently, Lea went to CLSC Métro, one of the designated Quebec locations providing medico-social interventions to victims of sexual assault. However, despite arriving within the 12-hour window required to test for GHB at the CLSC Métro, she was denied a toxicology examination because she had not been sexually assaulted. “I was devastated. I wanted an answer, just to validate my experience,” she said. “I was really upset that I couldn’t have that piece of evidence. And there was no way that the perpetrator, whoever committed this crime, would ever get caught.” Shortly thereafter, Lea filed a complaint with Montreal police.
In a released statement, Quebec’s Health Ministry said testing for GHB is challenging due to the tight window and also because only specialized labs can process the tests. However, neither the ministry nor the regional health authority responsible for CLSC Métro could explain why Lea was told she was ineligible for a drug test because she wasn’t sexually assaulted.
In May, another Montreal woman had been denied drug testing after a similar incident. Ariane Brunet, a 31-year-old musician, went to a concert with close friends. In her interview with CBC News, she described having one beer and one shot with friends. However, she cannot recall what happened after that.
According to Brunet, her friends had noticed she was behaving strangely and was unable to get up off the ground. After her friend called an ambulance, she was transported Brunet to Verdun Hospital. When she regained consciousness at 4:30 a.m., she requested a toxicology screening to determine whether she had been drugged.
However, the physician treating her told her that they didn’t offer the test and that no other medical institution in Montreal would test her, either. “What happened to me? I just needed some proof of what happened, just for me to recover,” said Brunet in her interview. Later, she filed a police report.
The regional health authority that oversees the Verdun Hospital said that it was not able to comment on Brunet’s specific case, and it could not say why she wasn’t directed to another medical facility that offered the toxicology screening.
After Brunet shared her experience on social media, the National Assembly adopted the motion to give all Quebec hospitals testing capacity in June.
However, currently, not all hospitals can provide testing. According to a statement released by the Quebec Health Ministry, anyone who believes they have ingested a spiked drink should be able to go to an emergency room and be tested. Moreover, the statement said that the Quebec government is working on a plan to ensure widespread testing becomes available.