BY MELISSA HORTON
The growing opioid crisis has been a major concern for Cambridge residents for some time now. The problem has become so rampant, with so many needles left lying around the city and weekly overdoses, that safe injection sites have been proposed as a solution by public health officials.
Downtown Kitchener and the Galt core of Cambridge have been recommended as spots for safe injection sites, which have left many residents worried for their safety. It’s not through lack of sympathy that residents are against these sites, it’s because of an increasing sense of danger.
According to Statistics Canada, the crime rate rose two per cent from 2015 to 2016 while drug offences rose by three per cent. These spikes in crime have grown alongside the growing rate in opioid use in the region.
While safe injection sites do not always directly correlate with a rise in crime, they will cause the downtown core to be a higher traffic area, an area populated by those under the influence of drugs.
Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig has been vocal about his lack of support for safe injection sites in the downtown core leaving some outraged. However, many of those in favour of the sites do not live near the downtown core or deal with the things the more urban residents deal with on a daily basis. Not only would a safe injection site in the downtown core be a bad idea, it simply would exacerbate the issue.
It should also be noted that Craig did not flat out reject the idea of a safe injection site. In fact, he proposed a better idea. He suggested Cambridge Memorial Hospital as a location, which seems better suited considering it is a hospital that could provide care in a matter of seconds and monitor the patients for a longer period of time. In a Feb. 28 interview with CTV News, the mayor is quoted as saying, “I believe it’s important to have some sort of facility in place to support people.”
Although the idea of safe injection sites remains controversial, it is clear that the mayor and concerned residents sympathize but that doesn’t mean their concerns should be overlooked.
This issue is not a question of whether we should help those struggling with addiction, but about when and where. It is unfair to overlook the concerns of residents who simply want to enjoy their neighbourhoods. Both sides need to be considered and having Cambridge Memorial Hospital as the location for a safe injection site seems to be the fairest and safest option.