Newly-elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been busy shaping the province since taking office in June of this year. One of his recent decrees has been to halt the establishment of any new supervised injection sites in Ontario. However, two Toronto activist groups have jointly opened an unsanctioned overdose prevention site in a west-end park in defiance.
The Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society have partnered to offer overdose prevention services in the wake of Premier Ford’s decision. The Health Minister’s office ordered the freeze just three days prior to the scheduled opening of a previously approved site. The groups opened their new site close to where this previously approved site was to open. Police warned of a recent uptick in overdose deaths in this area during the first two weeks of August and the groups felt the need to act was great. The overdose prevention site has clean drug paraphernalia, naloxone, oxygen, and a defibrillator.
The Toronto Overdose Prevention Society is not new to offering unsanctioned services. Just last year they opened a tent in Moss Park and within a year of operation acquired federal approval and a permanent location. The Society said that out of over 9000 uses at the Moss Park site, 251 people overdosed and all were brought back, without the use of the defibrillator. Ontario as a whole saw over 1200 overdose deaths in 2017. Despite overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence that taking a public health approach to addictions saves both lives and government dollars, the Health Minister and Premier are looking at investing more in law enforcement to tackle the issues. Police did not dismantle the Moss Park site, so it remains to be seen if they will act on this new site.