We found a range of responses, including some pretty understanding views.
Harm reduction advocates have long touted the benefits of safe injection sites, which are facilities that allow drug users to inject while medical staff supervise.
Following a recent funding announcement from the Ontario government, three injection sites are expected to open in Toronto pending inspection and federal approval.
One of the proposed sites is inside Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre on Bathurst Street, just north of Queen Street West. Torontoist went to the surrounding neighbourhood to see what those who live and work there think about the proposed site.
A former social worker, Magali Julien isn’t conflicted. “I think there [are] only positives about it,” says Julien, standing before the local community health centre, not far from her home. “Definitely it reduces disease spreading. And people have a right to dignity and to remain as healthy as possible as they’re battling addiction or any other illness…I think that’s the minimum dignity we can give them,” she adds.
Amber Stephenson is generally supportive of injection sites. “It’s going to help cut costs down for health [care],” the piercer at piercing-and-tattoo parlour Abstract Arts says. However, Stephenson adds, “It’s kind of shitty people have gotta pay for it out of their tax money…but it’s still doing good for people who have an addiction.” As for the fact that the site will be right around the corner from her workplace, she’s nonplussed. “I don’t think it’s going to draw anything worse to the area—it’s not necessarily like the area’s bad—but there’s already issues in the area,” she says. “I think if anything, it’s probably gonna make it a bit better.”
“Is that wasting taxpayers money?” asks Ameet Kumar, a manager at Home Craft Decor on Queen Street West. He would prefer a site be funded privately, but even in that case, he has his doubts about the harm-reduction method’s efficacy. “I’d still have an issue,” he says. “Is it a solution, or is it putting people back to the same spot?” Kumar explains. “I would be against it.”
Daniel Cancino, chef at Queen West restaurant Lamesa, admits he doesn’t have much of an opinion about injection sites overall, but he does see how they can be effective. “It could be a positive if it’s constructed in the right way,” Cancino, who has seen needles laying around not far from the restaurant, acknowledges. “If you’re a drug addict, you’ll find any means to find that high—at least [this way] it’s done in a safe location.”
Robin, who asked Torontoist not to publish his surname, lives just steps from Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre and has used some of its services. He doesn’t have a problem with the idea of a safe injection site so close by. “This neighbourhood needs it in the sense that there is…a lot of people that inject,” explains Robin, who has lived here for the past nine years and says over that time the area hasn’t really improved. “This injection site might help a lot.”