Manitoba report questioned after recommendation for safe injection site deleted

Manitoba report questioned after recommendation for safe injection site deleted

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba government-commissioned report on addiction services is being criticized after a recommendation to open a safe injection drug site was deleted.

A draft of the long-awaited report reviewing addictions and mental health was released to the media Monday morning and included a recommendation for a safe injection site in Winnipeg.

When the final report was posted online later in the day, that recommendation was gone.

The report from Virgo Planning and Evaluation Consulting, led by Dr. Brian Rush, followed months of consultations, reviewing documents and data, and an online survey. It was called the most comprehensive review of mental health and addictions in the province’s history.

But Rush said he removed the safe injection site recommendation because he didn’t have enough evidence and data to back it up.

“At the end of the day, the last edit I made… I sat in my office and I looked at that and said I … didn’t have enough to defend it one way or another, besides my personal conviction that those resources are really helpful,” Rush said.

Premier Brian Pallister has said he doesn’t see the need for safe injection sites but said last month he would await the report and follow its recommendations.

Opposition NDP leader Wab Kinew said the mix-up leaves Manitobans wondering “what else did they monkey with in this report?”

“What other recommendation did they disagree with simply because of their conservative ideology that they are leaving out?” Kinew asked.

The recommendation was included in multiple drafts which were provided to government and stakeholders, Rush said. It was removed after March 31, but Rush insisted pressure from the government was not behind his decision.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the government did not intervene to have the safe injection site recommendation removed. While he has met with Rush about four times previously, Goertzen said the first time they spoke about safe injection sites was Monday morning.

Any report commissioned by the government involves officials from the department communicating with researchers before it is published, Goertzen said, but it was Rush’s decision alone to remove the recommendation.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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