City program expires today, but AIDS Committee of Ottawa planning to step in



Tim Wieclawski/Metro Ottawa


The sun is setting today on the City of Ottawa’s two-year experiment with distributing free crack pipe kits to addicts. Heather Money, above, has distributed the pipes for the AIDS Committee of Ottawa and says that group has pledged to keep the program running without municipal help.


“...We’re not going to fund anotherorganization to do what we already said we’re not doing.”

Addicts in Ottawa will still be able to find a safe crack pipe kit tomorrow — it just will no longer come courtesy of city taxpayers.

The AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) — one of the agencies that has distributed the kits through the city’s Harm Reduction Program — has pledged to keep the pipes available to addicts, despite council’s 15-7 vote this month to end the municipally-funded program after today.

“Our mandate is to prevent the transmission of HIV and to improve the lives of people infected,” said Kathleen Cummings, executive director of the ACO. “The safe inhalation program is a proven way to do that.”

Cummings has met with other organizations to plot a contingency plan to distribute the pipes as of tomorrow.

There are still supplies of the kits — which include pipes, rubber mouth pieces and sterile wipes — remaining at The Living Room, a Bank Street drop-in centre run by the ACO, said program co-ordinator Heather Money.

She said staff plans to keep handing out the kits until supplies run out.

The city has not asked that remaining stocks be returned, she said. And the ACO’s position is that because the kits are considered devices for reducing disease transmission under the Criminal Code, distributing them is legal, even though they are instruments for illicit drug use.

But one city councillor notes that after remaining supplies run out, groups will not be able to turn to the city for funds to get more. Orleans ward councillor Bob Monette said that he’d vote against funding any organization that requests city money to distribute crack pipes, now that council has opposed the program.

“The city has said ‘no, we’re not funding it,’ and we’re not going to fund another organization to do what we already said we’re not doing,” Monette said yesterday.

He conceded, however, there’s nothing the city can do if the pipes are distributed using private funds, even if the organization distributing them also receives city money.

Monette said the city should be focusing on treatment and outreach for addicts and not making it easier for them to continue their habit.

But Wendy Muckle, director of Ottawa’s Inner City Health Program, has said that the pipes only make it safer to use, since the drug can be smoked out of materials as common as aluminum cans, which are more hazardous because they do not have a filter.