toronto safe injection site

Sign at Toronto safe injection site incites outrage and confusion

A poster on the property of a safe injection site in Toronto has caused pandemonium among certain groups online, who have widely shared — and misconstrued — its message.

A photo of the sign, which was in the window of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre near Queen Street East and Carlaw Ave., was shared to Twitter this week by vocal political activist and former PC Party staffer Ginny Roth, and then subsequently reposted by the party's leader, Pierre Poilievre.

"If you live in Leslieville and you're concerned about your kids picking up needles that surround the drug consumption site, you don't have to worry. In fact, if your kids collect enough they can trade them in for chocolate!," Roth wrote of the sign, which advertises a free chocolate bar in exchange for every full container of needles brought in.

Using it to bolster his political message, Poilievre added "This is an actual sign from a drug consumption site in Toronto. What is happening in Canada?"

In the storm of comments and shock that has ensued among his supporters online, the organization has since removed the signage, apologized, and clarified that it was not at all intended as some groups are portraying.

SRCHC’s CEO has issued a comment to media saying that the message was not at all meant for children and in fact, wasn't directed at the general public at all.

The flyer was actually part of an effort to clean up the area around the building — which many locals have been complaining about — and encourage clients who are using the site's harm reduction programs to dispose of their sharps safely and properly, keeping them off the street.

"In an exuberance to get used needles off the street, one of our staff posted a sign that was never meant for the public," he said, adding apologies for the miscommunication.

The health centre has been a pain point for some in the area, who have blamed it for a reduced sense of neighbourhood safety and an uptick in crime, including a daylight shooting in which an innocent bystander was killed in July.

Residents have long been complaining of "concerning behaviour," including "a small zone of outdoor drug use, dealing, overdosing and conflict in open view all around their building," one person said in a lengthy discussion on the topic in a community Facebook group.

"The centre has completely lost control of the activities surrounding the facility."

Sites and homeless shelters in other parts of the city have also caused tensions, with some even marching to protest shelters in their communities and the perceived rise in crime as a result.

Those on the other side of the issue say these supports are necessary and life-saving, and call NIMBYism on those asking they be put elsewhere.

The recent revelation that an Community Health Worker at SRCHC has been connected to the recent murder outside the facility unfortunately does not help its public image.

The staffer, who is facing charges including accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice for allegedly helping a suspect evade police, was placed on unrelated leave last week.

Lead photo by

South Riverdale Community Health Centre

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