May 14, 2018 6:23 pm
Updated: May 15, 2018 11:25 am

Report questioned after safe injection site recommendation removed

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen spoke about the Virgo report at the Legislature Monday.

Randall Paull / Global News
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An extensive review of Manitoba’s mental health and addiction services has been called into question after the government revealed some of the report was changed, just before its release.

Over the past year, consultants dug into the province’s health care system and created a 279-page report, which included dozens of recommendations including a safe injection site in Winnipeg for drug users.

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But that didn’t make it into the final version of the report.

READ MORE: ‘Funding alone will not fix the system’: Report on Manitoba mental health, addictions

The draft report was sent to the government on March 31, but six weeks later changes were made.

Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen said he didn’t ask for safe injection site recommendations to be removed.

“You can assume that, you can say that, but it’s just not true,” Goertzen said.  “I understand that there were dozens of things that were discussed, between the drafted iteration and the final report, which would be normal in the context of government.”

Despite that, Global News only found the one difference between the two reports: the recommendation about safe-injection sites.

The Conservative government has been cool to the idea of safe injection sites. In December, Goertzen said it wasn’t something the government was considering.

Dr. Brian Rush, who authored the report, said he removed the safe injection site recommendation because he didn’t have enough evidence to back it up.

READ MORE: Almost half of Winnipeggers would approve of safe injection sites: Poll

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said the changes suggest someone from the government asked the report writers to alter it.

“To me, the concern here isn’t with the research that went into the report, the concern I have is with the political interference that has gone on after the government received this report,” he said.

“Somebody made a decision to conceal a very important recommendation that’s going to impact the people in the City of Winnipeg, it’s going to impact not only the health of the people who are using, but potentially is going to impact kids who come across dirty needles.”

Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont echoed Kinew’s concerns.

“This is a clear case of political interference on the part of Kelvin Goertzen and the Pallister government,” he said. “The entire process is in question. Why were the report’s authors submitting drafts for approval instead of working independently?”

Government officials said there were other changes made from the drafted report compared to the final version, but they didn’t say what was changed. Global News checked the document using an online tool and could not find other changes.

The final version of the report can be seen on the government’s website, while the version sent out earlier Monday morning can be seen below:

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