Little Current on Manitoulin Island is amending a zoning bylaw so methadone clinics can’t be located downtown — an undertaking that’s drawing attention from the Human Rights Commission of Ontario
Mayor Alan MacNevin says methadone clinics are welcome in Little Current, but he says downtown is not the right place.
"It's in the middle of the only shopping and main business district of our community," he said.
MacNevin says a bylaw officer told the clinic to stop distributing methadone because it presented a risk to public safety. The Water Street clinic closed earlier this month after people complained about fighting outside the building.
Now the town wants to see a methadone clinic located nearer to a hospital.
'Not a planning issue'
But the Human Rights Commission is warning the town to not discriminate against people seeking methadone treatment.
A zoning and planning issue expert says the provincial tribunal is currently looking at whether bylaws that manage group homes are violating human rights — and Little Current council may want to consider the outcome of those rulings when dealing with its own issue.
Mitchell Kosny, who studies zoning and planning issues at Ryerson University, said the town’s proposed amendment may be stepping outside what is intended in the provincial planning act. The act sets guidelines for municipalities.
"People fighting in the streets is not a planning issue … [Not]
in the way that probably the planning act and the official planning zoning would look at it," Kosny said, adding that it’s not up to city planners to make sure people get along.
But MacNevin said council is considering both patients and the town's residents.
"The only issue we have is the planning issue in terms of what's the proper site so that both clients and the community feel safe," he said.
In the meantime, patients from the Water Street clinic are being sent to similar treatment centres in Gore Bay, Espanola and Sudbury.