For Immediate Release
August 14, 2017
Toronto, ON – In the context of the public health emergency in Toronto and in cities across Canada, Pivot Legal Society applauds the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance’s courageous and compassionate move to open the city’s first unsanctioned safe injection site. It will undoubtedly save countless lives, as similar sites in Vancouver have done.
“Up until a few days ago, drug users in Toronto who are facing enormous overdose risk have been deprived of access to a safe place to consume drugs. The fact that the activist community has had to take matters into their own hands to provide this life-saving form of health care is proof that Canada’s authorization process is not working, and must be revisited immediately so that sites can operate when and where they are needed,” said Katrina Pacey, executive director of Pivot Legal Society.
Toronto’s first “pop-up” safe injection site opened over the weekend by a small group of volunteers with limited resources. The Toronto police have stated that they will allow the site to operate despite the lack of federal government authorization.
We must protect the rights of people who use drugs
Organizations wishing to establish legally-sanctioned supervised consumption sites are required to seek an exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act in order to provide life-saving health services without fear of arrest. This latest development in Toronto is proof that regulatory and application requirements for service providers looking to open supervised consumption sites are too onerous and must be revisited to ensure there is no unnecessary delay. Further, the federal government must expedite the approval of the remaining section 56 exemption applications. According to Health Canada, across the country nine sites remain in Review stage and one in the Screening stage.
Opioid overdose-related deaths have increases steadily in Toronto since 2015. In recent weeks the city has seen a sharp spike in overdoses, with more than 20 incidents including at least four fatalities. Lives cannot wait for government to approve, build, and implement the life-saving services needed in the context of this national health crisis.
Peter Kim, Communications & Digital Engagement Coordinator
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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization, based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories in drug policy, including helping to keep North America’s only prescription heroin program, at the Crosstown Clinic, open through a constitutional challenge. Other campaign areas include homelessness, police accountability, and sex workers’ rights. www.pivotlegal.org