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Ottawa throwing roadblocks in way of supervised injection sites: CMA

The federal government has tabled legislation that will make it tougher to open supervised drug injection sites in Canada, and the CMA isn't impressed.

"In a preliminary assessment based on initial review of Bill C-65, the CMA is deeply concerned that the proposed legislation may be creating unnecessary obstacles and burdens that could ultimately deter creation of more injection sites," it said when the legislation was tabled June 6.

The bill requires the government to consider the views of police forces and local politicians before it grants the legal exemptions that will allow any new sites to operate. Currently, the InSite centre in Vancouver is the only supervised drug injection site in North America.

The CMA and federal government have been on opposite sides of the debate for five years. For its part, the CMA says the sites have a proven harm-reduction value and save lives. The Supreme Court of Canada sided with that argument in 2011, when it unanimously ruled that such sites should "generally" receive a federal exemption to operate because "the evidence indicates that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease."

The CMA, which was an intervener in the Supreme Court case, says Bill C-65 will discourage the opening of new sites by placing the onus on applicants to complete all consultation requirements related to new sites.

"Our position is founded upon clinical evidence," the CMA said after the bill was tabled. "Bill C-65, it would appear, is founded upon ideology that seeks to hinder initiatives to mitigate the very real challenges and great personal harm caused by drug abuse."

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