By Nicole Schmidt
After more than a decade of debate, Toronto is planning on moving ahead with creating supervised injection sites to give users a hygienic environment to inject pre-obtained drugs. One of the proposed sites will be housed in the Toronto Public Health facility at Victoria and Dundas streets, beside Ryerson campus.
These sites are among several strategies that have been put forth to reduce overdoses and diseases, along with the amount of public drug use and discarded needles.
Michael Forbes, interim director communications at Ryerson, said in an emailed statement that the university is aware of the proposal, which was released on March 14, but it has not yet been reviewed. “We will need to see the specifics before we can provide comment,” he wrote. “As with all social initiatives in our precinct, the university looks forward to participating in open, transparent consultations.”
Canada currently has two safe injection sites, both in Vancouver. In 2013, the Board of Health approved a report from the Medical Officer of Health supporting these services in Toronto. This decision came after a 2012 study found the city would benefit from having multiple safe injection sites.
In addition to the Victoria Street location, plans have been made to create sites in South Riverdale and on Queen Street West. These locations, according to the report, were selected because they have high rates of injection drug use.
Although some people have expressed concerns about public safety, David McKeown, medical officer of health for the city of Toronto, said the sites are beneficial for the community. He added that harm reduction programs are already present at the selected locations, and have been for 20 years.
“[Harm reduction programs] have been going on for quite some time with very little negative impact on the neighbourhood,” he said.
Injection drug use is associated with HIV and hepatitis C, transmitted through contaminated needles. Supervised injection is sterile and can increase access to treatment services. Providing a safe space for users also lowers the number of people injecting in nearby washrooms and stairwells, said McKeown.
The proposal is still in its early stages and will require municipal, provincial and federal review and approval before sites are created, said Forbes. If the report is approved, there will be a community consultation process which Ryerson will be involved in.