Health Canada has given Montreal approval to open three supervised drug injection sites, making it only the second city in the country to have the facilities on its territory.
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the approval of the request on Monday afternoon.
The provincial government approved the notion of introducing supervised drug injection facilties two years ago, but the project has been on hold pending federal approval.
The Conservative Harper government was strongly opposed to the idea of allowing people a legal space to use illegal drugs, and would not grant an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Polls consistently show Montrealers support the establishment of supervised injection sites. A Mainstreet Research poll published in January showed 20 per cent of Montrealers disapproved of such sites, lower than any other major Canadian city. Two-thirds of Montrealers approved of them.
Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said Quebec and Montreal have a “broad social consensus” in favour of the sites.
“We’re going to prevent deaths and illnesses associated with overdose,” Ms. Charlebois said in an interview. “We’re going to reduce sharing of needles and along the way we’re going to reduce HIV infection. For the people in the neighbourhoods, there will be fewer needles on the ground. It will be safer for everyone.”
In Montreal in the summer of 2014, 233 people suffered drug overdoses, and 28 died.
More than 900 people died of confirmed or suspected overdoses in British Columbia in 2016.