Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean
Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean
Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean
Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean
All adult Quebecers who want the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to sign up for their first shot in the next two weeks. Starting tomorrow, those aged 50-59 can sign up, with a new age group added to the list every two or three days.
Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé made the announcement at an afternoon press conference joined by National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda and Daniel Paré, director of the COVID Vaccination Campaign.
The rollout is as follows:
Most of these people will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine, though some of it could be from Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (which only requires one dose). This is separate from when Quebec made their remaining AstraZeneca vaccine shots available to people aged 45 and up last week. That campaign is still ongoing and clearly identified as separate on the government’s website.
You can make an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine shot when it becomes available to your age group through the Clic Santé website
Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccination program is in full swing, but today it hit what could end up being a setback. Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé announced today that the province is temporarily halting its administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine known as Covishield to people under 55 years old.
This decision follows a small number of cases in Europe where the vaccine was linked to blood clotting in women under 55. While no such cases have been reported in Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended the temporary suspension so more studies can be done.
Quebec and Manitoba have adopted this policy, with potentially more provinces to follow suit. PEI is stopping use of the vaccine for people aged 18-29.
Currently, Quebec is only vaccinating members of the general public over 60 years of age. The government won’t say how many of the 111 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it has already administered went to people younger than 55 (healthcare workers, etc.).
While admitting that some appointments may have to be cancelled, Dubé said that Quebec is still on track to have everyone who wants a vaccine be able to get one by June 24th. In addition to AstraZeneca, Quebec is also administering doses of the Modern and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.
Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through some of the big Quebec and Montreal news stories:
Quebec and Canada’s ban on flavoured vapes are coming into effect. What will this mean for local business?
Quebec high schools students are back, religious services can have up to 200 people, but there is still a curfew and a ban on home visits. Does this make any sense?
There was a protest against Shiller Lavy’s practices in Mile End that was also a book sale. Dawn was there.
Dawn Mc Sweeney is an author and FTB contributor, follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy
Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of ForgetTheBox.net, follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean
Quebec is now officially under an 8pm to 5am curfew which began Saturday night and is scheduled to last for four weeks. This is the first time there has been a curfew here since the October Crisis of 1970.
While previous and current measures implemented by Premier François Legault’s government to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been about restricting what we can do (selected business closures and bans on gatherings) or hygiene (masks and hand sanitizers), this one is different. It’s not about what we can do, but when we can do it.
First, it’s important to stress that COVID-19 is a very real threat and Quebec’s numbers are the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic. Any measures that will significantly drop the spread of COVID are worth implementing. Full stop.
That said, will this new strategy work? I honestly don’t know, but I don’t think Legault does either.
Unlike the premier, or at least unlike what he says publicly, I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of fighting a virus that spreads at any hour, day or night, by restricting the specific hours we can be outside of our homes.
I wonder if it could end up having an opposite effect to what is intended. Well, let’s start with a hypothetical, though very plausible scenario…
Let’s say there are 100 people who all live in the same area and go for a walk each day. 70 of them take their walks during the daytime, while the other 30 prefer a quieter walk at night.
Now impose an 8pm to 5am curfew.
The 30 people who walked at night and want to keep active now have to take their strolls during the daytime to avoid breaking curfew and getting fined. The other 70, meanwhile, continue their daytime walks.
So, instead of 70 people out during one period of time and 30 during another, we now have 100 people on the streets of the same area in the same period of time. We now have crowded sidewalks where social distancing is more difficult.
Likewise, night time grocery shoppers in the same area now have to get their shopping done before 8pm alongside the daytime shoppers. There will be more people in the stores at the same time and when the store hits its limit of patrons, lines will form outside, creating additional obstacles for the increased number of people going for a walk.
Grocery store and depanneur employees will be exposed to more people seeing as the stores will have the same number of customers, but these will now be spread out over fewer shifts. Also, many of these employees will pack public transit at the same time to get home before curfew.
So, in this scenario, the risk of COVID-19 transmission actually increases, albeit minimally, even if everyone is wearing masks and trying to socially distance as much as possible.
Quebec’s Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda made the same argument I just did a lit quicker when asked about curfews in the March 16, 2020 presser (this video should start at the right spot, but if it doesn’t, skip ahead to 14:32):
Meanwhile, Quebec’s homeless population faces a situation that is very much not hypothetical, nor is it just an inconvenience. Fining or even harassing someone who can’t afford a place to live for being outside past curfew is just plain cruel and appalling.
Legault’s claim that there “is enough room available” in shelters is out of touch at best and willfully ignorant at worst. The situation wasn’t great before the pandemic began and while shelters have been able to find some additional space in old hospitals, social distancing requirements offset quite a bit of that.
Also, there have been COVID outbreaks in shelters, prompting many this past summer to set up tents instead of taking the risk.
A petition demanding that homeless people be exempt from curfew enforcement and fines already has over 6500 signatures.
When it comes to people who have homes, yes, for some, like me, the curfew is a mild inconvenience. Well, in my case it’s a mild inconvenience mixed with a bit of existential dread.
I have a roof over my head, set my own schedule and have access to friends and family via the internet. I don’t need to go for a walk or the dep after 8pm, but the fact that I am not allowed to scares me.
Others aren’t so fortunate:
One thing that became clear in the press conference announcing the curfew and in subsequent pressers by government officials is that people going for strolls or buying groceries at night as well as the homeless are just collateral damage. Their real target is people visiting friends or family at home in small gatherings that bend or slightly break the rules.
The government admitted that they didn’t see that many large parties (those get reported and shut down anyways), but knew there were many small gatherings (which are harder to track). A curfew may eliminate some of those, but the rest will just move to the daytime or have their friends stay over or catch the first metro home once the curfew lifts at 5am.
The curfew will also put an end to people gathering outdoors in parks at night. Now, if this was the summer, that would have a measurable impact, but it’s not. It’s frickin’ January in Montreal!
Sure, there may have been some people out there previously risking hypothermia along with COVID who now won’t be able to. So add them to the people who decide not to crash at their friends’ places or gather earlier.
Is that enough reduction in potential transmission to offset the potential increase by having everyone go for walks, buy groceries and take public transit at the same time? Best case scenario, (that I can see) yes, but not by much. Worst case: COVID numbers actually continue to rise more.
It’s true that curfews have been part of successful COVID fighting packages of measures. The key word here is packages.
In Italy, they went from nothing except maybe wash your hands more to a full-on lockdown that included a curfew. Yes, that worked, but going from nothing to everything doesn’t prove that one part of the everything, the curfew, solved the problem.
In Melbourne, they imposed a curfew along with several other measures. As a great editorial in The Gazette points out, though, their success wouldn’t have been possible without serious restrictions on the manufacturing sector, including meat packing plants, something Legault hasn’t done.
He isn’t even keeping the schools closed (there’s even a petition now to implement more safety measures in schools) or halting construction. It’s akin to fighting climate change by banning plastic bags and straws without doing anything to curb the giant corporate polluters.
In the press conference, Legault and his colleagues referred to their move as “shock therapy” and shock is just what we have seen since the curfew took effect. Images of deserted Montreal streets and highways from Saturday night coupled with stories of large fines for people being outside their homes after 8pm filled our newsfeeds Sunday morning.
Given that last time we had a curfew here, it was for a terrorist threat, having one now, 50 years later, is most definitely a shock to the system.
Yes, it may shock some of the people visiting friends to stay home. It may also shock people like me, who have been following the rules and doing our best to fight the virus, while at the same time trying to retain some semblance of normalcy by not thinking about COVID 24/7, into being more perma-disturbed.
But the question remains: Will it shock the spread of COVID-19 so we also get the awe of the numbers going down significantly? Or is this just a bit of performative paternalistic pandemic management that will do much more harm than good?
While I hope it’s the former, I feel like it may be the latter.
While Legault’s initial reaction to the pandemic was swift and in line with nothing but the facts, it seems like since the fall, his government’s approach has been guided by a different principle: Protect the 9-5 economy as much as possible, it’s social gatherings that are to blame!
Now while the virus most definitely can spread when people from different households have dinner and drinks at home, it also can spread at school or in a manufacturing plant. For Legault, though, work is important, socialization with those you don’t live with isn’t.
It’s beyond capitalism, it’s the preservation of whatever the Quebec version of Norman Rockwell is at all costs. It even took a numbers spike too big to ignore to get them to cancel Christmas gatherings.
When the numbers kept going up, rather than re-think their strategy, Legault and his government decided to ignore other options like keeping schools closed or restricting manufacturing and construction and double-down on it. Instead of admitting their approach was wrong, they’re going to implement extreme measures to force it to be right.
It seems like the curfew is a strategy to prove Papa Legault knows best regardless of the consequences rather than one to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19.
For all our sakes, I hope I’m wrong.
The rumours were true, or at least most of them were. Quebec Premier François Legault announced in a press conference that Quebec will be under an 8pm to 5am curfew from January 9 to February 8.
As of Saturday and for four weeks, anyone outside at night without a valid reason will face a fine between $1000 and $6000. Work is the only valid reason Legault specifically cited, but there probably will be others.
At first, police will ask people outside if they have a valid reason. Legault said that they are working on a form or a system for people to prove they have a valid reason for being outside.
Grocery stores and depanneurs are asked to close at 7:30pm so their workers and customers can make it home for 8. Deps attached to gas stations are allowed to stay open after 8, as are pharmacies.
Movie and TV production will continue at night and the Canadiens can still play hockey despite the curfew. People in Northern Quebec are exempt as well.
Legault and Public Health Director Horacio Arruda both said that this move was to curb visits in homes. While they acknowledged that there were no big holiday parties, but people did visit homes in smaller numbers, which they want to stop.
While much of this was expected following the stories circulating yesterday, one thing wasn’t: primary schools will resume in-person classes on January 11th as planned and high schools will start online then go in-person on January 18th.
Quebec Premier François Legault had scheduled a press conference for today (Tuesday) at 5pm then rescheduled it for tomorrow. It looks like this extra day is to give the government time to work out some of the details of a possible curfew with public security agencies.
According to La Presse (and then later reported by other sources), Quebec is headed to a total lockdown that will last a few weeks. This will surpass the current January 11th target date for non-essential businesses and schools to re-open.
As with the partial lockdown the province imposed in Spring 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, non-essential businesses and schools will be closed. This time, though, it looks like the construction industry will be as well.
The real difference with this lockdown could be a curfew beginning Saturday. According to the report, it would run from as early as 8 or 9 pm until the morning.
La Presse says that Public Health requested the curfew as Quebec’s COVID-19 numbers continue to rise and threaten the healthcare system’s ability to operate effectively. The government now needs to figure out the details of how such a thing can be implemented with various police forces.
We will update you when we get the official word from Legault’s press conference.
Small outdoor gatherings in backyards or parks will be permitted in Quebec as of this Friday, May 22nd. They can have no more than ten people who come from a maximum of three households
Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault, sitting in for Premier François Legault at the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing, made the announcement and stressed that we were not at the stage where parties and indoor gatherings could start up again. While she understands that, in some cases, guests may go indoors to use the washroom or change a baby, she urged people to not move indoors as a group when it gets late and colder, instead people should head home.
Guilbault also said that people who don’t live together need to maintain two meter distance from each other at these gatherings and urged people to wear masks when not at home as much as possible. This change may be reversed if a new outbreak happens and is Quebec-wide.
Home healthcare providers province-wide will also be able to resume operations as of June 1. Same for personal care businesses such as hair salons everywhere in Quebec outside of the Greater Montreal Area and Joliette.
Guilbault said that a re-opening date for personal care businesses in Montreal and Joliette will follow. Non-essential retail businesses not located in shopping malls or with a private street entrance will be allowed to re-open in the Greater Montreal Area this coming Monday, May 25.
Watch the full press conference with Guilbault and National Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda
Montreal will be temporarily converting 327 kilometers of city streets into what the city is calling the Safe Active Transportation Circuit. These will last throughout the summer and possibly into the fall, depending on the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic and containment efforts.
At a press conference this morning alongside Éric Alan Caldwell, the Executive Committee member in charge of mobility, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante spoke of a bike ride she took down Christophe-Colomb Avenue with her kids. Despite few cars on the street, cyclists and pedestrians were all crammed together trying to respect social distancing guidelines.
According to Plante, this plan will increase the space available to pedestrians and cyclists and allow them to travel while respecting the two meter rule. It will link parks, residential streets and commercial arteries and encourage people to shop and enjoy nature locally as much as possible.
Plante noted that businesses will benefit because there will be more place outside for people to line up two meters apart as pedestrians and cyclists pass by. She also said that this plan will allow for more terrasse space for restaurant and bar patrons to spread out if and when the provincial government allows those type of businesses to re-open.
When a reporter asked Plante if pulling back some of the regulations that limit drinking alcohol outside, the Mayor said that while alcohol regulations aren’t under municipal jurisdiction, it’s always good to think outside the box.
Caldwell stressed that the city took into account bus and truck delivery routes when planning this circuit. While admitting it will limit car travel with less space available to vehicles, both he and the mayor pointed out that there are fewer cars on the road already due to the pandemic.
Here’s the video the city released:
Quebec Premier François Legault is in Montreal today. Speaking alongside Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Quebec’s National Director for Public Health Horacio Arruda, Public Health Regional Director Mylène Drouin and Transport Minister François Bonnardel, he announced that Montreal-area schools won’t re-open until the fall.
Primary schools across Quebec, excluding the Greater Montreal Area, re-opened on Monday, with Montreal expected to follow on May 25th provided COVID-19 numbers were dropping on par with World Health Organization criteria for deconfinement. With over 20 000 people infected, they aren’t and Montreal has become Canada’s epicenter for the virus, so it will be late August and September before any schools re-open here.
Pushing re-opening back a few weeks only to close them when the school year ends mid-June would have made no sense according to Legault. Daycares that don’t run on the same school year may re-open June 1, provided Coronavirus containment conditions are met.
Non-essential retail businesses not located in malls or in malls with a separate street entrance in Montreal could possibly re-open on May 25th as planned. That date may, of course, be pushed back.
When they do re-open, though, there will inevitably be more people using public transit. Legault announced that Quebec will assist Montreal in providing masks for commuters, which Plante welcomed.
The Premier and his colleagues have been recommending people wear face coverings whenever they leave their home for a few days now, and in particular when they ride public transit. While they won’t rule out making masks mandatory on transit at some point in the future, we’re not there yet.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic due to the Corona virus aka COVID-19. Montreal is not only the epicenter of the outbreak in Quebec, but in all of Canada.
In a move that Montrealers have been begging for since Quebec Premier François Legault announced his harebrained idea of reopening the province on May 11, he has agreed to delay reopening schools and businesses in Montreal until May 25, 2020, and only if the situation here has improved. The decision was made in consultation with Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s National Director of Public Health.
Parents in Montreal can finally breathe a sigh of relief, as reopening too early would only lead to a resurgence of the disease that would overwhelm hospitals already overworked and rapidly reaching capacity. David McLeod told this reporter that if elementary schools did reopen in Montreal on May 19 as planned he and his wife would not be sending their son:
“If we did it would be a prison we would be sending him to, not a school. It is a place for people to park their kids.”
Wendy, a mother with diabetes, had also decided to keep her son at home, declaring that he is not a guinea pig for the government. She worries that her son would pass the virus on to her with fatal results.
Parents were not the only ones worried. Educators in Montreal, who agreed to speak to me on condition of anonymity, were deeply concerned about the health, sanitation, and logistical nightmare of reopening the schools and daycares.
“It takes the whole summer for administration to organize class kits and teacher schedules. It’s not as simple as putting a teacher in a room with 8-15 kids,” said an elementary school teacher. “The school buses usually have 60-80 kids and now they’ll be only 12 kids on one bus…will there be enough busses for everyone?”
She expressed concern that keeping a two meter distance from students would make it harder for teachers to help them, adding that the problem would be worse for kids with ADHD.
A Montreal high school teacher expressed concern that Legault’s plan lacked clarity. She countered the Premier’s claim of reopening the schools for students’ mental health by pointing out that kids have more freedom of movement if they stay home. She also says it’s still not clear whether teaching high school has to be face-to-face or if content can just be posted for students to look at at their own speed.
“Lucy” a daycare educator, told me her loved ones were terrified of her going back to work. The stress of staying clean and safe scares her too, comparing a return to work to “going to war with no gun”.
“Mary”, another daycare educator thinks even reopening Montreal on May 25th is ridiculous.
“You know there’s been an outbreak in a daycare, right?” she said, referring to the recent COVID-19 outbreak at a daycare in Montreal North. “We will be wearing visors at my daycare. Can you imagine a child coming in after months and meeting a monster with a blue face and visors? I don’t see how this will not be damaging to the child,” she said.
As a member of the immune-compromised in one of the hardest hit boroughs in Montreal I have my own worries about what reopening schools will mean for my personal safety. I live within walking distance of two elementary schools, one high school, and one school for students with special needs.
My chronic medical conditions put me on the “Most Likely to Die from COVID-19” list, thus making leaving my home incredibly unsafe until the virus is contained. Reopening the schools would make it more likely that I could fall victim to the pandemic, and with hospitals overcrowded, there’s no guarantee I’d get the help I need.
Even former Montreal Canadien Georges Laraque sees the absurdity of the Quebec government’s initial decision, and though he himself has COVID-19, he was live streaming about his experience in our health care system from his hospital room.
Some parents are calling the change of heart a lot more sensible. Others think Legault’s initial plan of reopening Montreal was a business-oriented decision that showed the lack common sense people have come to expect from his government.
Whatever the reason, Montreal can at least be thankful that common sense has prevailed and that active resistance works. We just have to be loud enough.
Schools and non-essential retail businesses across Quebec are re-opening today, except those in the Greater Montreal Area. While schools in the 514, 438 and 450 area codes are on track to re-open in two weeks, Montreal-area businesses will not re-open on May 11th as planned, but May 18th.
Quebec Premier François Legault announced during the government’s regular COVID-19 briefing today that he was pushing back re-opening Montreal because Montreal-area hospitals were getting crowded. He noted that there are still beds available in Quebec’s largest city and coronavirus epicenter, but not enough to re-open in a week.
This decision comes amid a rise in virus transmission in Montreal Nord. Legault said that there is not enough leeway in Montreal to deconfine as planned as there is in other regions of Quebec.
He also updated his original two world view. Now, Legault says there are three Quebecs: inside seniors’ residences, Montreal and everywhere else.
Re-opening the manufacturing and construction sectors are happening as planned, even in the Greater Montreal Area.
Quebec will be re-opening some parts of its economy during the month of May. The province, at this point, will not be relaxing social distancing rules imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic overall and will impose new regulations on businesses when the re-open.
Quebec Premier François Legault announced the plan in general at the government’s daily press briefing before passing it over to Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade with the details. So far there are three sectors re-opening:
Legault repeated remarks he made yesterday when talking about re-opening some schools as a justification for re-opening parts of the economy with COVID deaths and hospitalizations still on the rise. While situation is still dire in seniors’ residences, the population overall, excluding that sector, has been flattening the curve.
No word yet on when sit-down restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses where social distancing could prove difficult may re-open. The government did say that they will be making other announcements at later dates.
Quebec Premier François Legault announced that Quebec will be re-opening primary schools and childcare services across the province but excluding the Greater Montreal Area on May 11th and then in Montreal and the 450 area codes on May 19th. High schools and post-secondary education institutions will only re-open for in-person classes in the fall as most currently offer online courses.
In his daily press briefing on Quebec’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Legault stressed that attendance will be optional and urged children with health issues or children of parents with health issues to stay home. He also noted that this plan will only go into effect if Quebec’s Coronavirus numbers continue on their current trajectory.
In the past 24 hours, Quebec reported 23 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 84 new deaths and five fewer people in intensive care. Legault noted that most of the increase is happening in seniors’ residences, which is the focus of the province’s fight against the pandemic.
Legault said that it’s like we’re living in “two fifferent worlds” when comparing long-term care facilities to the rest of Quebec society. This is how the government is justifying opening up parts of society a bit.
Legault said that re-opening schools is for societal reasons as well as to prevent kids with learning disabilities from being away from their teachers for too long. The premier stressed that “heard immunity” wasn’t a principal reason behind the move.
Tomorrow Quebec will announce its timetable for re-opening businesses.
American friends, in particular those choosing a Democratic candidate for President, something’s been bugging me about the debates I’ve been watching. It’s the rhetoric attacking Medicare for All.
In particular, it’s the concept that if you don’t make government-funded healthcare just one option among many private options, you will be unfairly taking something away from people. While the impetus for politicians to make such arguments clearly lies in the fear of losing donor money, those who believe their logic most likely do so out of a real fear of losing something they actually need or like.
I suspect it’s due to a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of how Medicare for All works. With that in mind, I’d like to explain, or Canadian-splain if you will, how Universal Healthcare works here in Canada.
All Canadians are entitled to a Medicare Card. They are issued by the government of the province you live in.
These cards need to be renewed at a minimal cost. The specifics vary from province to province, but they’re all in the same range.
In Quebec, where I live, renewal is every four to eight years and costs $25. If you move to a different province, you have to prove residency to get a new card.
Having lost my card once at the same time I moved, I know all too well that you really have to prove who you are and where you live. Given that your health card also serves as a photo ID for things like voting, it’s good to know that this is a secure system.
With the card, you can walk into any hospital you want and get the treatment you need. There’s no such thing as “out of network” or a “deductible” here.
When it comes to family doctors, you choose the one you want. They still have to accept you as a patient, but your bank balance won’t be a factor.
When you arrive at the hospital or the doctor’s office, they swipe your card, treat you and send the bill to the appropriate provincial government. The provinces administer and directly pay for the healthcare system with the help of transfer payments from the Federal Government, as universal coverage is mandated by the Canada Health Act.
It’s important to note that the cost of procedures the government pays for is standardized here. Given the fact that hospitals in the US can currently charge whatever they want, I get why the prospect of universal coverage may erroneously seem too pricey to many.
In Canada, Medicare covers everything from AIDS and Cancer treatment and gunshot wounds to non life-threatening stuff like sprained ankles. While medicine you get when in a hospital is covered, prescription drugs you take after aren’t (except for in some cases like people on welfare), but they are considerably less expensive than in the US.
We also don’t cover dental care or surgery considered cosmetic. It’s interesting to note that the Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders is proposing does cover dental as well as home healthcare and, from the looks of it, a better plan than Canada currently has.
In our recent election, one party, the NDP, was pushing for Universal Dentalcare and prescription drug coverage, but they lost to (everyone outside of Canada’s favourite Liberal) Justin Trudeau. While he’s not for expanding the Canada Health Act, he wouldn’t dare suggest scrapping it, and neither would our most right-wing politicians.
Currently, for stuff like dental, we still have private and workplace insurance. I seriously doubt that if our government started funding dental or pharmacare, people would fear losing their private insurance.
That’s because you don’t have to give up any treatment with Medicare for All. If your system turns out anything like ours, the only thing people will lose is the cost.
If people “like their insurance” what they really like is the healthcare they get. And they’ll still get the same healthcare.
Yes, treatment will be prioritized for those who need it most and then for those who arrived first. It’s possible a millionaire will have to wait in line behind a minimum wage worker and someone on welfare if all three require the same care at the same urgency, but that’s how it should be.
When you stop seeing healthcare as a commodity and instead see it as an essential public service, like the fire department or the roads, you’ll realize that you aren’t giving up anything with Medicare for All.
Featured image of a Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles 2017 by Molly Adams via Flickr Creative Commons
After years of pleading, debating and waiting, the Quebec Ministry of Health officially released the funds to open three supervised injection sites (SIS), as well as one mobile unit in Montreal. Two such sites are already in function in Vancouver, but it will be a first for Quebec.
Quebec will release $12 million over three years to three community centres in Montreal: Spectre de rue, CACTUS and Dopamine. One part of the money will help the centres prepare the locations and fulfill all the requirements to be granted an exemption from the law on drugs by the federal government.
The other part will be used for the launching and running of the sites’ operations. One mobile unit will also be providing services in a few boroughs. No official date is set for the opening of the facilities, but Le Devoir mentioned that it could be as soon as March 2017.
The project is far from new. In fact, six years have already passed since the Director of Public Health started pushing for the opening of SIS in Montreal. In June 2015, Mayor Coderre had announced his plan to go forward with the facilities, with or without Ottawa’s approval.
At the time, the provincial government decided to lend a hand. According to Lucie Charlebois, Quebec’s Minister of Health and Healthy Living, “we are now at the final step” of the process.
She told Radio-Canada that the work on installations and the hiring of medical staff was already on track. “That means we’re advancing quickly.” She commented that she discussed the matter with her federal counterpart, Jane Philpott: “she is very receptive towards it, but we have to fit certain criteria, that is clear.” Charlebois stated that she believes that getting the federal approval will be a formality.
Sandhia Vadlamudy, the director of CACTUS, told FTB by phone that this formality requires a lot of paperwork, but no problematic modifications.
Last year, CACTUS distributed 610 000 clean syringes in an effort to prevent transmission of infection, which is around 65% of distributed materials on the island, including those distributed in CLSCs and drugstores. With their supervised injection site finally going forward, they will be able to “add one more tool to prevent infections and overdoses.”
Some have argued that the government would do better to focus on treating drug addiction or even on cracking down on drug crime instead of improving the conditions of drug use. Vadlamudy doesn’t think that promoting abstinence and prohibition is sufficient.
“This approach is more based on pragmatism; which is to say drugs exist and people take them.”
She argued that SIS are beneficial for more than just drug users, highlighting that, within four years of operation, SIS start saving money for the healthcare system by preventing overdoses and health deterioration in users.
It will also help reduce the number of intoxicated people and of used needles left on the streets “and thus improve the quality of life of everyone in the community.”
According to the Director of Public Health, there are 4000 regular users of injectable drugs in Montreal. People who use injectable drugs are 59 times more like to be infected with HIV. An average of 70 people die of drug overdoses every year in Montreal.
In the eyes of many, SIS remain a marginal, controversial option for desperate cases, when they are not a silly progressive scheme. But their growing popularity around the world and the expanding stack of evidence in their favour are now hard to ignore.
The first North American facility, Insite, opened in Vancouver 13 years ago. In 2008, federal health minister Tony Clement called it “a failure of public policy, indeed of ethical judgment.” Just last spring, Toronto’s Police Association expressed firm opposition to the idea of opening SIS in their city.
“Insite is not a model we want to see replicated,” association president Mike McCormack said, fearing that SIS would attract crime and loitering and thinks that government money would be better spent on treatment options.
Insite handles 600 injections daily. Not one person has died of an overdose within its walls. According to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, there was a 35% decrease in overdose deaths in the area of forty blocks around the site. BC’s HIV and Hepatitis C infection rate went from the highest of the country to one of the lowest. More than thirty peer-reviewed papers were published about Insite’s beneficial impact.
Supervised rooms for drug consumption started popping up as a response to AIDS epidemics and the spike in overdoses in the eighties and nineties. There are now about 90 of them around the world.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction recently published a study in which they found overall that those sites increased safe and hygienic drug use and reduced risky behaviours. They also found that, contrary to Toronto’s Police Association’s concerns, there was no evidence that those sites increased drug related crime and violence in their vicinity.
*Featured image by Todd Huffman, WikiMedia Commons