Warden Mandy Martin said local health unit went “rogue” with their statement about the overdose prevention site in Cobourg.
County Councillor John Logel is Chair of the committee, Warden Mandy Martin and County Councillor Olena Hankivsky are other voting members.
Also in attendance were CAO Jennifer Moore and Director of Community Social Services Lisa Horne.
The Committee does not make decisions, but makes recommendations to County Council.
During the meeting Councillor Hankivsky brought forth a motion that was not on the agenda.
Chair Logel said because was of a “time sensitive issue”, even though it was not on the agenda, it was allowed to be brought forward.
Hankivsky said, like many other leaders in the County who have been following the events taking place in Cobourg with the unsanctioned overdose prevention sites.
“I don’t support any kind of illegal activity and that has to be the position of elected officials. That said, I think we have to be asking some very hard questions around what to do around issues of harm reduction across the County.”
“It’s a perfect example of our needs are not being met by services – people are dying in our community.”
Martin said one of the issues mayors are having in Northumberland County was the statement issued by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge, District Health Unit that wasn’t helpful.
“The question in my mind, why did the health unit go rogue with their statement?”
Logel stated he hoped Martin wasn’t asking him, but as Logel sits on the health unit board, she was specifically asking him.
“I really don’t have a comment because I haven’t been brought up to date on this,” said Logel.
Hankivsky said she had a chance to speak with Dr. Natalie Bocking who is the Medical Officer of Health for the region. Bocking told Hankivsky that they are not officially endorsing, but they are coming at the issue from a harm reduction perspective in recognizing that services needed don’t exist in the community.
Martin reiterated, “with that attitude, “I don’t have enough money for a funeral, so why don’t you kill me.”
Cobourg Mayor Lucas Cleveland who is not part of the Social Service Committee spoke stating, “I do have difficulty where I see a tent being set up by individuals with no training. By individuals with no license or medical experience from outside of our Northumberland community, showing up and administering illegal narcotics to individuals as a harm reduction site.”
Cleveland said he is all for harm reduction proven statistically, backed by medical professionals and experts in the field.
“What has been going on in Cobourg is nothing like that. What has been going on in Cobourg is a variety of individuals who have stated explicitly that they are forming a resistance and a protest. I don’t understand how a tent for three hours, once a week, hidden from the community is in anyway shape or form an effective harm reduction technique.”
Cleveland said they are, “illegal tents, set up by people who have no formal training and or qualifications administering illegal narcotics in public spaces.”
(Editor’s note: organizers have stated they are not administering the illegal narcotics, but allowing the users a “safe” place to use then under the watchful eye of people that know what to do if an overdose happens)
“I’m looking forward to hearing from the Medical Officer of Health how they deem a site only three hours a week, hidden from the public with no trained professionals is in anyway, shape or form harm reduction.”
Logel stated, “what bothers me is that this is illegal,” stating who would be responsible if something happened.
Cleveland spoke about how the unsanctioned tents have affected the community.
Hundreds of e-mails to himself, council, Chief of Police, Police Services Board.
“Our community is 100% against this en masse.”
Though he said the individuals in the community that do support the unsanctioned overdose prevention site are the ones that have called in support from outside agencies.
“Who have called in advocates from Peterborough and Oshawa. Members of groups who are not affiliated with our community.”
“There are those individuals who have been very public, who have gone on the record saying they don’t care about the rule of law. They’ve gone on the record saying this is intentionally being done to force elected officials into doing things quicker. Their intention is to specifically antagonize the community into action. I’m very comfortable in saying, this is negatively effecting our community.
This is not a good thing in anyway, shape or form for our community,” said Cleveland.
Hankivsky said, “this is a crisis. We need to bring all the players into conversation lead by health professionals and use evidence based information and knowledge. We can’t afford to wait a year or two for a feasibility studies to decide how we need to be moving forward on this.”
Cleveland’s final comment said the group of individuals who have the overdose prevention site/tents have been vocal for over a year.
“The issue is not anyone is necessarily against the idea of a legal consumption site. It’s that they haven’t done any of the work required to move this forward. Instead decided to open up one weekend an illegal site as a form of protest and as a resistance.”
Logel read the motion which stated:
“That the Social Services Committee recommend that County Council support the resolution from the Town of Cobourg regarding unsanctioned overdose prevention sites in the Town of Cobourg;
Further That the Social Services Committee recommend that County Council pass a separate resolution at the April 12, 2023 County Council meeting stating that the County does not endorse the operation of any unsanctioned consumption sites in Northumberland County; and
Further That the Social Services Committee recommend that County Council invite the Medical Officer of Health for the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit to make a delegation at the April 12, 2023 County Council Meeting outlining the HKPR District Health Unit’s efforts for harm reduction and their position with regards to unsanctioned consumption sites.”
The motion was moved by Martin and seconded by Hankivsky and carried.