Rebecca Beattie says she was compelled to start a petition for a safe injection site after seeing a man try to shoot up at a Saskatoon restaurant this month.
Beattie and her 4-year-old son were unwrapping their sandwich at Subway when the man in the next booth pulled out a needle.
“He sat right next to us, literally next to us and I stopped him as he raised his needle in the air and said, ‘you need to get out of here.'”
“Did he have a place to go? I came to find out he really did not and that’s really where this came from,” Beattie said.
The man left the restaurant, leaving Beattie, her son and the employee shaken.
Beattie said its not just marginalized people that have signed the petition.
Physicians and other advocates have come forward saying “we need this.”
“I think that really speaks volumes about the issue itself, that it’s such a community issue that people from all walks of life are coming forward,” Beattie said.
Saskatoon Community Clinic Executive Director Lisa Clatney said they share the vision of establishing a safe place for intravenous drug users and are working toward the goal alongside other groups.
“If a safe injection site (SIS) were to be established in our city, we feel the SIS should be offered in conjunction with other programs and services that support both,” she said in a statement.
Health Minister Jim Reiter is aware of a group exploring a safe injection site in Saskatoon, but no formal proposal has been submitted.
Health Canada requires extensive community consultation and recently changed their application process to allow third-party funding and removed provincial approval as a requirement.
“If the Ministry of Health were to receive a request for funding, the Ministry of Health and health care professionals with expertise in this area would need to assess drug use patterns, drug use culture, and the concentration of people who use injection drugs in that community,” his statement read.
“This assessment would have to be carefully weighed against other harm reduction funding priorities under consideration.”
Reiter pointed to examples of recent harm reduction measures by the province such as making safer inhalation supplies available at harm reduction sites and a new agreement between the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Indigenous Services Canada and the Ministry of Health that will increase funding for the needle exchange program.
The online petition had over 900 signatures as of Friday.
-With files from Keenan Sorokan