Mayor John Tory hints unsanctioned overdose prevention site could remain open
City in talks to keep unsanctioned overdose prevention site open, but in a different space
John Tory says he'd never seen anyone inject themselves with drugs before Tuesday night, but following the experience inside the Moss Park overdose prevention tent the mayor is pledging to do more to keep drug users safe.
Harm reduction workers opened the unsanctioned site in early August following a spate of overdoses, some of which were fatal. The site recently helped more than 30 people in one day.
Tory didn't announce his visit, but spent more than an hour speaking with those who rely on the site and those who help run it, like Nick Boyce, the harm reduction worker who led the tour.
When asked about it on Thursday, Tory said the visit left him "more mindful than every of the fact that these are human beings who have profound issues in their life and they require support, from us, and they require safety.
"We have an obligation to do whatever we can to help save those lives," he added.
Moss Park site may have a future, mayor hints
Previously, Tory said he would like to see the site "dismantled" once the city's three official supervised injection sites open later this fall (one is currently operating in a temporary space near Yonge-Dundas Square, helping an average of nine people per night, according to Toronto Public Health.)
Moss Park currently operates without an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, although the volunteers running it say they'll keep it open.
"[The city] would prefer that we do it under the federal exemptions, but we're also in an emergency situation where we're losing far too many people," Boyce told CBC Toronto.
City working with other governments on issue
With the latest Ontario statistics showing more than 800 people died of drug overdoses across the province last year, Boyce says Toronto needs more overdose prevention sites, and fast.
"If there's ways to remove barriers to opening services and get creative, that's what we should be doing," he said.
While Toronto doesn't control healthcare spending nor federal drug laws, Tory's spokesperson, Don Peat, said in a statement that the mayor plans to work with other levels of government to "get the approved supervised injection sites up and running as soon as possible and advocating for more addiction treatment facilities."
Earlier this week the provincial government vowed to invest $222 million over three years to improve access to harm-reduction services and addiction treatment.