Toronto opens new safe injection site at Fred Victor Centre

Toronto will open a new safe injection site at Fred Victor Centre on Wednesday after recently receiving federal approval.

New site at Queen and Jarvis streets will be open 7 days a week, 6 p.m. to midnight, Coun. Joe Cressy says

A new safe injection site will open at Fred Victor Centre on Wednesday after recently receiving federal approval, Coun. Joe Cressy said on Twitter. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Toronto will open a new safe injection site at Fred Victor Centre on Wednesday after recently receiving federal approval, Coun. Joe Cressy said on Tuesday. 

The site will be open seven days a week from 6 p.m. until midnight.

Cressy told CBC Toronto that Fred Victor Centre is across the street from Moss Park, an area that has already seen a large number of overdoses. The park is also home to its own temporary overdose prevention site.

Zoe Dodd, who works at the Moss Park site, says that it will remain open for the foreseeable future. 

"Originally we were supposed to move into Fred Victor, and then Fred Victor decided that they wanted to have their own supervised injection site," she said. "I think it's great that they're finally opening. It's taken a long time to happen."

She adds that some staff from the Moss Park site will help out at Fred Victor, and they have also assisted with training the Fred Victor staff.

A government site says the Fred Victor Centre got approval for use as a supervised injection site in November. However, it was listed as exempt as an inspection was pending and the site was undergoing renovations. 

The new safe injection site at the Fred Victor Centre is across the street from Moss Park, which also has its own temporary overdose prevention site. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Dodd says although she's happy that the Fred Victor site is opening, she doesn't think it will be able to meet demand. 

"We know that it will take time for people to move over to Fred Victor, but also Fred Victor will only have three booths, and we have five spaces for people to inject," she added.

"We don't want to leave them totally overwhelmed with the amount people that will come to their site as they're new. It will be very overwhelming on them when they're brand new doing it."

'We need even more'

Coun. Joe Mihevc has been a vocal supporter of safe injection sites along with Cressy and says he'd like to see more.

"Our interest all along has been to serve the injection drug using community to, frankly, save lives and prevent overdoses. The statistics on a Canada-wide basis are absolutely alarming," Mihevc said. 

Mihevc added that public health staff are looking into where additional sites might be opened, and he anticipates that the approval process for other sites will be quicker.
Coun. Joe Mihevc has been a vocal supporter of safe injection sites. (Supplied)

"The approval process here was dramatically shortened, still too long, but it was dramatically shortened," he said. "Soon my hope is that as additional sites roll out, we're talking short months rather than long months."

Cressy said that the federal government is realizing that not moving quickly to approve safe injection sites might mean more lives lost. 

"We don't count lost days in time. We count lost days in potential lives, which speaks to the need for us as a city, as a province and as a country to scale up our response."

While there has been some opposition to safe injection sites, Cressy says public opinion has changed on how to handle drug use.

"We tried to arrest our way to a solution for more than a 100 years and all that did was result in more lives lost and I think there has been a sea change in public understanding and discourse on the need for harm reduction facilities like supervised injection."