The Liberal government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is opening three drug injection sites in Toronto.
Health Minister Jan Philpott announced in a news release Friday that the “supervised” injection sites will be up and running by the end of 2017 — despite reports of skyrocketing opiate deaths in Vancouver, where Canada’s only operational injection site continues to allow addicts to shoot-up illegal heroin without the risk of being arrested.
Addicts can use heroin because Health Canada first obtains exemptions from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The sites, estimated to cost $3.5 million, are planned for the downtown and central area of Canada’ largest city and provide medical supervision for users of illegal drugs.
The facilities are a product of the “harm reduction” approach to drug abuse that argues addicts can use harmful drugs safely if they are monitored in their use. However, drug overdoses are heading for an all-time high in Vancouver, British Columbia despite years of “safe” supervision. Over a year, the province’s health office declared a public health emergency over the rising rate of drug-related deaths. There have already been 488 deaths in the city due to illicit drug use — a figure that is on track to expand to over 1,400 by the end of the year. In 2016, there were a similar 935 deaths — and that total set a record.
Despite those statistics, Philpott continues to maintain that the drug sites “save lives” and don’t stimulate drug use or crime in the surrounding — even though residents who live in the vicinity of Vancouver’s injection site complain of just those phenomena.
The Liberals passed Bill C-37 last month. The legislation made it easier for cities to apply to establish injection sites in their backyards.
“No single action is going to put an end to the mounting number of overdoses occurring across the country, and it is crucial that we work together and continue to explore new ways to help us reverse the course of this crisis,” Philpott said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, a former of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, is also heralding the efficacy of the proposed facilities. “Supervised injection services have been effective in other communities in preventing death, illicit drug use and in reducing health risks,” Tory said. “The steadily increasing number of lives lost due to drug overdoses is a human tragedy and cannot be acceptable to anyone in a caring city such as ours.”
Toronto won’t be the last Canadian city to offer a haven for drug addicts. There are three more coming in the Greater Vancouver Area and three for Montreal.