Skip to content

Group pushing for safe injection site in downtown Barrie launches petition

'We are hoping to get as many signatures as possible, from all over the city,' says group member

A newly formed organization in Barrie has launched a petition and is hoping to be the voice for people who support a supervised consumption/injection site (SCS/SIS) for drug users in the city.

Supervised Consumption Saves Lives (SCSL) held its first meetings late last year and were only able to meet once in person before switching to Zoom calls in November.

“It is a little less personal this way, as you’d rather be holding someone’s hand as they get emotional or need a shoulder to cry on,” group member Holly McDaniel told BarrieToday. “The stories shared are deep and we have members who have directly lost loved ones to the opioid crisis.”

McDaniel says she hasn’t lost a relative to the crisis, which has claimed around 160 lives since early 2019, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, but she has lost a friend from university and was truly sparked by attending council one night in 2019.

“I was at council the first time they (councillors) deferred the motion for an SCS,” McDaniel said. “I was outraged at that and how it was just dismissed despite all the science being presented.”

An SCS provides a safe space and sterile equipment for people to use pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of health-care staff. Consumption refers to taking opioids and other drugs by injection, smoking, snorting, or orally.

SCSL says the facility, which requires provincial approval as well as support from the host municipality, should be located downtown where it is needed the most. 

“We are hoping to get as many signatures as possible, from all over the city. It isn't just people downtown that care, but we hear from people all over Barrie who are concerned for the people that are dying,” McDaniel said. "People can't be valuable members of the community if they are dead."

McDaniel says she doesn’t believe councillors who supported deferring the SCS motion are doing so because they simply don’t care about people's lives. She says they are just not taking the time to recognize the deadly problem in the community.

‘There has long been an approach to society where drug use is a punishable offence and to fix it, we just throw people in jail,” she said. “That is not only not working, but for those concerned about the financial side of the opioid pandemic, it is costing money to deal with it that way.

"We're being asked to wear masks because of COVID-19 because fact-based science says to, but yet some councillors aren't following fact-based science here which says that an SCS works," McDaniel added. 

The organization says an SCS is designed to create a community of protection, so people can safely use drugs around others who aren’t going to harm or take advantage of them.

McDaniel says the stigma around drug use has been mostly negative, and an SCS could help address that if it showed positive results.

“I have heard stories of those who use drugs going to a medical facility or hospital and being looked down upon because of their addiction," she said. "An SCS is a place where people can go in and not be judged. They are looked at in the place they are. That attitude is what they need; they need to feel like who they are and that is as people.”

McDaniel stressed that she and the group are well aware that an SCS would not solve the region’s addiction issues on its own, but said it's needed to start the process toward recovery.

“We know this won’t end drug use in our community. We clearly are aware of that. But it is a crucial part of a multi-pronged approach that includes housing and other social services,” she said.

McDaniel says people just need to open their eyes to what is already happening in the community.

“We hear that people don’t want the SCS to bring drug use into the neighbourhood,” she said. “Well, take a look around because the use is already here. It just doesn’t have a safe place where it can be supervised.”

The petition can be found here.

A virtual candlelight vigil has also been planned for Monday, Feb. 15 beginning at 7 p.m. to honour those who have lost their lives to the opioid crisis.

Details can be found on the Supervised Consumption Saves Lives Facebook page.

For more information on the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS), click here