Barrie council postpones decision on supervised consumption site
It will be a few more weeks before residents will learn whether or not Barrie City Council will endorse a supervised consumption site at 90 Mulcaster Street.
After three and a half hours of debate, discussions and deputations from the public, councillors voted to defer the decision until June 24th. Councillors are asking officials with the Simcoe-Muskoka Opioid Strategy to investigate other more “suitable” locations, including one by the downtown bus terminal, and to report back to council on June 24th.
“We’ve been having this conversation for a long time now, and meanwhile, people are dying at an alarming rate,” said Councillor Keenan Aylwin. “That needs to be a priority. Those lives matter.”
“I think we have a site, and it may not be perfect, but we have a site,” Councillor Barry Ward said.
The decision to delay follows nine deputations from residents, who spoke out against the location of the proposed site. Council rules dictate that only deputations against an issue are allowed, so no presentations in support of the site were made.
Residents argued their voices hadn’t been heard and that there hadn’t been sufficient notification about public meetings.
“The postcard sent to local residents did not have any notice that there was a safe injection site planned at 90 Mulcaster printed on it,” said one man during his deputation.
Others claimed the data and research around the site were flawed, and that other sites hadn’t been adequately considered.
“You have chosen to hear that this site is the best,” one woman said.
But Matt Turner, the Harm Reduction Coordinator with the Gilbert Centre and member of the Simcoe-Muskoka Opioid Strategy advocacy group, says he is confident that 90 Mulcaster can offer the most services for those in need.
“We feel 90 Mulcaster is the best location, despite what residents are saying. It provides the best wrap-around supports, and is away from most areas people feel are sensitive.”
“If it’s going to work, and I believe it will work, then this site offers something that no other site can offer,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman, referring to the counselling provided by the Canadian Mental Health Association in the building, along with the neighbouring David Busby Centre. “The point is, we want people to ultimately be able to access addiction services, housing services, and the things that are going to help them to not have to live a life of addiction. That is only possible at this site.”
Councillors continue to be divided on the topic.
“There’s no sense of rushing into this,” said Councillor Mike McCann. “If we don’t get this right, the province is going to reject our application.”
While Aylwin feels it’s been debated for too long. “There is no perfect decision here. There’s always going to be issues that we have to mitigate around the site. But we have a responsibility to act, and to act now.”
Members of the Simcoe-Muskoka Opioid Strategy advocacy group will now report back to council on June 24th but said finding another better location in three weeks is not likely.