Kitchener-Waterloo

Cambridge council approves moving forward with search for SCS site

Cambridge councillors have voted 7-2 in favour of moving forward with a search for a supervised consumption site location and setting up an advisory committee to help with that process.

'We cannot sit back and wait and do nothing hoping this is going to go away,' Coun. Monterio says

During a special council meeting Wednesday night, Cambridge council voted in favour of moving forward with plans to find a location for a supervised consumption site. (Amanda Margison, CBC News)

Cambridge will move forward with considering where to put a supervised consumption and treatment site in the city.

Councillors voted 7-2 Wednesday night during a special council meeting on a number of staff recommendations. That includes looking for one preferred site that will include wraparound services but will be located outside of a core area, as well as setting up a community wellbeing advisory committee to discuss the possible site locations.

Councillors Nicholas Ermetta and Jan Liggett voted against the motion.

Ermetta said if he had a friend who was an alcoholic, he wouldn't take them to a bar to get help.

"I don't agree with the overall approach. I've been hearing that a lot in my ward," he said.

In the coming weeks, the advisory committee will be created and they will be tasked with looking at a plan for a site and timelines for applications to the federal and provincial governments to set up a site location.

Any decision on a site will come back to council to be approved before being forwarded to the region, area MPPs and the province's health ministry.

A 'Band-aid' solution

Council heard from 11 people on the issue before voting. Six of those were against a supervised consumption site.

One was Carol Thorman, who has spoken out since her sister Helen Schaller was shot to death earlier this year.

"I believe that the majority of us do not disagree that we are not doing enough for our marginalized people. Where we disagree on is the solution," Thorman told councillors.

"It's not the lack of consumption sites that are causing people to die. It's the fact that they're misusing drugs."

She called the consumption site a "Band-aid" solution for a larger problem.

Connie Cody said she's concerned the sites "are temptations, seducing users" and that will impact children.

"We keep hearing that consumption treatment sites save lives. The reality is that these sites are being proposed because people are not ready to stop using harmful and illegal drugs," she said.

"Trying to camouflage these sites under the disguise of a medical facility gives a false message to our youth and to our community."

Keith Rivers is in favour of putting a site in Cambridge because a consumption site would provide a critical link to other services and treatment options.

"Social agencies and their staff are now becoming unsafe injection sites as users migrate to their doorsteps and washrooms seeking ad hoc rescue from overdose," he said.

"The opioid crisis affects everyone," he added. "The goal is to keep people alive so that they can engage in treatment."

'It's not going to go away'

Coun. Frank Monteiro moved the motion and urged his fellow councillors to support it as well.

"We are responsible. If we can save some lives, and I'm not saying to just provide them a place for them to do their drugs, to look after their addiction. Even if we can get out of 15 or 20, two or three that will take the opportunity to get the help," he said.

"We cannot sit back and wait and do nothing, hoping this is going to go away. It's not. It's not going to go away."

Coun. Mike Mann argued he wanted more of an emphasis on the treatment side of things.

Mayor Kathryn McGarry supported the motion and also encouraged people who had suggestions on how to tackle the opioid crisis to take their research and thoughts to their MPP and the province.

"In order for somebody to get well again, and to get treatment, they have to stay alive. So we're talking about a consumption and treatment site, with a capital T," she said.

"We need to fully get on board and start the work that we need to do."

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