BY TAYLOR PACE
Last month, Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig told CTV News that he wants to “make it very clear to the public that from Cambridge’s point of view, we’re not supporting an SIS (safe injection site) in the downtown Galt core area.”
He even went so far as to say, “were not going to do that.” But perhaps the mayor should have refrained from making such an impetuous comment so soon, as no decisions have been made yet on the location of the sites, or if Waterloo Region will even be getting them.
Public health officials have recommended the sites be located in downtown Kitchener and the Galt core.
A public meeting will also take place later this month to better understand where the community stands, but with the mayor’s statement out there, a site in downtown Galt could easily be a no-go.
The mayor said if the city gets a site, he would like to see it near the Cambridge hospital, away from the busy downtown where experts have recommended it go.
His statement turned this multi-faceted issue into a one-sided one: the public is concerned for their safety.
While some may believe safe injection sites will increase drug-related incidents and litter in the area, research shows this fear is misplaced.
As mentioned in a previous column, studies have found that safe injection sites do not increase crime rates or drug-related litter, and the neighbourhood around Vancouver’s safe injection site, Insite, saw a 25 per cent decline in overdose deaths.
The concern should not be whether safe injection sites will make Galt unsafe, but what will happen if the sites aren’t placed where public health officials have advised, at the heart of the epidemic: the Galt core.
Galt, along with downtown Kitchener, report the highest volumes of opioid-related emergencies in the region.
Last year alone, paramedics responded to over 500 overdose calls in the region; 71 people died of overdoses; and the streets and public bathrooms in the area have become littered with needles.
SIS would be an immediate solution to a critical problem, and placing them away from where they are needed most because of misplaced fears could risk their effectiveness.
Downtown Galt is already plagued by the opioid epidemic, and thus, those concerned for their safety should welcome the safe injection sites as the much-needed infrastructure it would be, offering help to those suffering addiction and creating a safer, cleaner downtown.