A group of parents at a downtown Montreal elementary school says a safe-injection site in their neighbourhood should be moved.
In September, Spectre de rue, an intervention centre for drug users, will begin operating a supervised injection site. The centre is on the corner of Ontario St. and Visitation Ave., about 200 metres from the Marguerite-Bourgeoys elementary school.
The parents are circulating a petition calling for the site to be moved to a location outside of the school corridor, a route designated by the city for children to walk safely to school.
The online petition currently has 230 supporters.
“Two of my children attend this school, and I think it’s a bit too close,” said Iris Le Bescond, a Marguerite-Bourgeoys parent whose children are seven and 10. “It’s not appropriate.”
While those pushing the petition acknowledged the societal benefits of safe injection sites, they said Spectre’s administration did not get the school’s approval before finalizing their decision to open a supervised injection site.
The school was informed the site would be put in place on May 4, according to Christelle Perrine, a mother of two children at Marguerite-Bourgeoys.
A month later, the school’s parents invited Montreal police, the Direction de santé publique de Montréal and Spectre’s administration to present the project, but the group did not address how the site would integrate into its environment, Perrine said.
“We asked the groups to see if they looked at alternative sites. The answer was, Spectre is already there,” she said.
Perrine noted that last week, while on a field trip with her daughter’s class in the Old Port, a man who was visibly inebriated approached the group of children and aggressed one of their mothers.
“It happens. When you bring in a safe injection site, you augment the probability of unpredictable events,” she said.
Perrine said the neighbourhood around Beaudry metro has improved greatly over the last 10 years.
Yet, parents said they sometimes still find syringes on the ground in the neighbourhood — something that could be prevented with a SIS nearby.
Spectre already operates as an intervention centre that serves similar clientele as most safe injection sites. Carole Morissette, the medical chief at Direction de santé publique de Montréal and the person in charge of implementing SIS in Montreal, said Spectre de rue’s plan to begin offering safe injection services has been public knowledge since 2011.
The centre’s current owner has been there since 1993, and there has never been a complaint or incident, according to Morissette.
“They’ve always had a great relationship with the neighbourhood,” Morissette said.
She added it’s possible that recent media coverage of safe injection sites are making parents worried, despite the addition of an on-site nurse to the centre being the only major change.
Now, clients can enter Spectre de rue and collect material with which to inject drugs — usually done in nearby parks, Morissette said. The safe injection room will allow users to be safer, supervised and out of sight of children. Their needles and other materials will no longer be found outside, Morissette added.
Two other safe-injection sites opened in Montreal Monday — one is on Berger St. in the downtown area and the other is a mobile unit that operates at night.