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CTV In-Depth: ‘A City in Crisis’ Part 2

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After five deaths in one week by suspected drug overdoses, CTV Ottawa will bring you an in-depth look into Ottawa’s growing opioid crisis. Over three days we’ll look at the people struggling with drug addiction, the daily fight for survival and why some say a safe drug supply may be the only way to save lives.

It’s a picture of Canada’s capital no one wants to paint, in the shadow of Parliament Hill, a community struggling to survive.

“At the moment I do feel like we’re losing this battle,” says Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull. One of the city’s top doctors, he quit his job as Chief of Staff at the Ottawa Hospital to treat the city’s homeless addicted to opioids.

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“There is more and more people coming, more continued deaths as a result of opioid overdoses.”

He works alongside Executive Director of Ottawa Inner City Health, Wendy Muckle. The pair considered heroes on the frontlines. The opioid crisis has been their life’s work.

“It rips the heart out of everybody who does this work,” says Muckle, “it’s one of the things we consciously work on is how to get up every day and keep going because it is painful and it takes you down at the knees. There’s always this worry when people phone you, like ‘who’s next?’, ‘who died?’”

In the midst of an opioid crisis, Muckle has changed the landscape of addiction support in the capital. The driving force behind supervised injection sites, now called Consumption and Treatment Sites; she spent years convincing municipal, provincial and federal governments to open their hearts and pocket books to the most vulnerable addicted homeless. Fighting for their rights, to have them seen as humans, and lives worth saving.

“For everybody who leaves and doesn’t need the help there are other people coming. It’s really hard to understand how we’re producing injection drug users so quickly in this city.”

It’s believed it’s the toxic drug supply blanketing the country. Fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid, is now being mixed into all types of street drugs. It has been found in heroin, cocaine, even marijuana. The drugs leave users more addicted than ever, craving more. The problem is an amount of fentanyl, equivalent to a grain of salt, can be deadly. It means those highly addicted users are now putting their lives at risk every time they inject, snort or smoke.

Ottawa Inner City Health’s Consumption and Treatment Site, previously called a Supervised Injection Site, also known as “the Trailer” at the Shepherds of Good Hope is where people can go, inject their drugs, while being monitored by nurses and support staff.

“People come and inject and then go to work,” Muckle says, “and come at the end of the day after work. It is really truly every facet of our society.”

If an overdose occurs, the team is there to administer naloxone, the medication used to reverse the overdose. Most times they are able to revive the user, sometimes though the drugs are just too potent.

“Six people per month in Ottawa die,” more than suicides or car accidents says Dr. Turnbull, “if this was drunk driving we would have everybody up in arms. We wouldn’t have any trouble finding people to talk about that.”

“Has it really hit home to a point that someone at dinner in Barrhaven is going to say ‘we gotta do something about this?’ No.”

The Trailer has been operating since November 2017, but Muckle had to reapply for licensing when the Ford Government took over in Ontario. The site, along with two others in Ottawa, were relicensed, a fourth, the city-run Clarence Street location is now slated to close.

The Trailer supervises up to 150 injections every day. On average, four of those injections result in overdoses that require some kind of reversing. If the overdose symptoms are caught early enough it may mean oxygen is sufficient, if symptoms are more severe then naloxone must be administered. Trailer staff says the toxicity of the drugs is so strong it’s more common to see four to nine dosages of naloxone needed to reverse the overdose.

While Muckle has fought hard to get and keep the Trailer and other supervised injection sites, she realizes it’s not the answer to the growing opioid crisis,

“It’s not getting us to where we need to go.”

“We need to fundamentally change the formula,” Muckle adds, “we are on our heels responding to the impacts of a deadly toxic supply and we have to change it.”

“To condemn somebody to go out and find money to illegally buy a toxic drug supply to be injected in front of us, to be resuscitated immediately, their life saved, then send them home or outside just to do it again,” says Dr. Turnbull, “that’s not the answer.”

What is the answer, or at least part of it, both Dr. Turnbull and Muckle agree, is a safe drug supply. What if the city’s most addicted and vulnerable could get their drugs legally, in their own home, no stealing or prostitution involved? It’s a program Ottawa Inner City Health is doing, the first of its kind in the world. A program, they say, is saving lives.

On Wednesday, watch for part three of our in-depth CTV series, ‘A city in Crisis’, when we look at the call for a safe drug supply in the midst of an opioid epidemic. 

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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse

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Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa

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If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake

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The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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