Shutting Down Supervised Consumption Sites Harms Women

Nicole Paroyan
JD Candidate 2021

Now that the federal election is over, it’s time to start talking again about provincial issues.  Provincial governments in Ontario and Alberta are shutting down safe consumption sites, and they are doing so without taking into account the harmful impacts this action may have on women.

Women are disproportionately represented among those who require help injecting. Kapri Rubin, executive director of Street Health in Toronto, has stated in interviews that 60 per cent of their clients are women. Gender power relations in intimate partnerships can lead to women often being injected by their partner. These women are therefore increasingly vulnerable within the relationship and may be dependent on their partner.  Supervised consumption sites allow women the chance to escape abusive relationships and minimize their risk of violence when injecting.

The federal government has reiterated their support for safe injection sites, opioid replacement therapy and safe supply. But, the federal government is not doing enough. Current federal approaches are based on treatment, harm reduction and measures of de-stigmatization; nevertheless, the science supports more action on providing a safe supply to prevent thousands of tragic deaths.

Though there has been an expansion on the exemptions for supervised injection sites, it is now time to be bolder. Ending the opioid crisis demands decriminalization of the drugs behind the epidemic and demands that provincial governments consider the experiences of some of the population’s most vulnerable when making their decisions.

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