Toronto's board of health has become the first governing body in the province to endorse supervised intravenous drug injection sites. The move is likely to be met with contention, including from the city's mayor, who reiterated Wednesday he does not approve of the motion.
The decision passed six to two following a recommendation from the city's medical officer David McKeown for the board to request the provincial government fund a pilot supervised injection site project similar to those seen in Vancouver and other cities around North America and Europe.
Supervised injection sites provide a sterile, safe environment for intravenous drug users to receive clean needles and inject pre-obtained drugs. Addiction counselling and detox treatment are also available on-site.
Dr. McKeown's recommendations cited research that shows the sites have a positive impact on public health and safety, moving IV drug users off the streets and into a clinic where they are more likely to eventually seek treatment and less likely to overdose.
"I think it's very, very important to recognize that injection drug use exists throughout Toronto. It exists in every neighbourhood," Dr. McKeown said, noting the city saw 895 fatal drug overdoses between 2002 and 2010.
He said supervised injection sites allow drug users "to stay alive long enough to be able to get off drugs."
Eighteen speakers from the public came to support the motion, including physicians, social workers, and self-admitted drug users.
But not everyone has been won over by the benefits of supervised injection sites. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has previously stated he does not support the implementation of supervised injection sites. He did not attend Wednesday's health board meeting, but was asked his thoughts on the decision at another event.
"I said I'm not going to support it, I'm not going to support it, period," Mayor Ford said. "The taxpayers obviously don't want that."