London

London faith groups support supervised consumption sites amid tensions

The Sisters of St. Joseph and the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Huron have crafted letters to city council in support of the two sites proposed by the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Both groups submitted evidence-based letters of support that will be revisited at council

St. Pauls Cathedral, Anglican Diocese of Huron, in London. Bishop Linda Nicholls has voiced support for supervised consumption sites. (Diocese of Huron/Facebook)

Two London faith groups are speaking up in favour of permanent supervised consumption sites to help the city's drug users.

The Sisters of St. Joseph and the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Huron have crafted letters to city council in support of the two sites proposed by the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

"I think it's important not just to protect lives but to include people in the city and to create more of a caring community," said Sue Wilson of the congregation of the sisters that include outreach workers tackling addiction issues.

We live in a society that is focused so heavily on an individual that we forget we all have a responsibility for the well-being of the whole community,- Bishop Linda Nicholls 

"It doesn't surprise me that faith communities would be on board. This is very much about protecting human dignity and trying to do what is best for people who may be on the margins," she said.

Anglican Bishop Linda Nicholls was also inspired to support the highly disputed health unit proposal after one of her parishioners sparked a conversation around it.  

"Whenever there's an issue of a dignity of a human person, the church wants to speak out," she said.

Last week, the province lent its support to proposed facilities at 446 York St. and 241 Simcoe St., allowing the health unit to move forward with Health Canada's application process.

This month, both faith groups submitted evidence-based letters of support that will be revisited at a council meeting on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a group of protesters marched to city hall earlier that day in opposition of the Simcoe Street site.

Message to protesters 

The move to build the facilities has been a turbulent one for the health unit. It was forced to revisit its choices for the sites after negotiations failed.

And the new locations have also been met with opposition that isn't backing down.

Tempers flared at a public input meeting last month when affected residents raised concerns over the sites bringing more harm in their communities.

"I respect their concerns but I would really encourage them to look at the evidence," said Wilson. "People are losing site that right now there are very visible problems connected to drug use so this is actually a way to contain some of those problems."

Bishop Nicholls has offered to have conversations with members of her congregation about why they should focus on the bigger picture of the proposal.

"We live in a society that is focused so heavily on an individual that we forget we all have a responsibility for the well-being of the whole community," she said.

"No one is saying that we approve of or want to see people caught in addictions that are destructive of their health and well-being but at the same time we want to make sure that the opportunities are there to do that in a way that's safe for them and for us."

The facilities are meant to provide a secured space for drug users to consume illegal drugs, while under the guidance of a health care professional.

About 400 Londoners have died because of the opioid crisis in the past decade.

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