The province of Ontario is conducting a “critical incident review” of supervised consumption sites in light of the fatal shooting of an innocent pedestrian near a Toronto location.
Just last month, 44-year-old Karolina Huebner-Makurat was caught in gang-related crossfire and died near the South Riverdale Community Centre — a safe injection site in the once family-friendly neighbourhood of Leslieville.
“Following the tragic incident last month, the ministry launched a critical incident review of the sites, starting with South Riverdale Community Health Centre. We are extremely troubled by this latest development and reviewing what options are available to the government,” said Hannah Jensen, a spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones, in a statement to City News.
Three people are facing murder-related charges in connection with Makurat’s death while police are still searching for a fourth suspect.
One of those charged was Khalila Zara Mohammed, 23, of Pickering, an employee of the Riverdale Community Centre who worked with the centre’s harm-reduction program and advocated for the decriminalization of illicit drugs.
Mohammed was arrested last week and is facing criminal charges of accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice.
Residents of the community detail a rise in violence and drug use around the supervised consumption site and official Toronto Police Service data confirms it. There was an alarming increase in assaults and shootings last year.
Resident Ashley Kea spoke out about the issue after she stumbled upon a bag of pink fentanyl while out for a walk with her children. She told City News that safety has become an increasing concern in the last year:
“I feel like we’ve all coexisted with the centre quite well. It’s definitely been the last year two years that is slowly starting to come up. But I’d say in the last six months to a year, it’s really substantially gotten worse around the centre.”
As advocates and activists act lawlessly, taking matters into their own hands in other jurisdictions where supervised consumption sites have not been formally approved, crime naturally follows.
Recently in Cobourg, a small southeastern beach town known as Ontario’s “Feel Good Town,” unsanctioned overdose prevention advocates have nomadically set up their services throughout the downtown core.
The situation escalated when a local residence was shut down for occupancy after findings of squalor by the local health unit and town partners, displacing dozens of frequenters.
As a result, the “unsheltered” set up an encampment of roughly 30 residents on the prime-real-estate shores of Cobourg’s west beach, which was the scene of gun violence merely weeks later.
Town council voted in a closed-door session to permit the encampment, despite its various bylaw infractions, and opted to provide two portable toilets, a washing station and a dumpster (despite housed residents paying roughly $4.00 per tag for garbage disposal) to the site.
It would seem a natural progression to many, except policymakers; where illicit drug use is condoned and allowed to proliferate, criminality festers.
Without strong leadership or a full-scope review of the policies found throughout harm reduction programs, out-of-control crime, open drug use, and poverty will ravage cities once viewed as safe and desirable places to live.