Protestors, faith leaders, DWBIA chair call for Windsor city council to support SafePoint location
As Windsor city councillors consider rescinding their support for the previously-approved location for the SafePoint consumption and treatment site (CTS), protestors are expected to be outside city hall demanding the project move forward as scheduled.
During Monday's council meeting, Ward 3 councillor Renaldo Agostino is expected to introduce a motion that would see council reconsider the location of the site on 101 Wyandotte St. E. near the Canadian entry point of the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.
Last year, council narrowly approved the location with a 6-5 vote. Among those who voted in support are Rino Bortolin and Chris Holt. Both individuals have since been replaced by councllors who say they are opposed to the Wyandotte location: Agostino and Ward 4 representative Mark McKenzie.
"The site is weeks away from completion and there is no grounds for this motion especially when you consider the location having had the most in-depth consultation process with over 3,000 community points of contact including residents, organizations and businesses over the last four years," said organizers for the "Call to Action: Rally at City Hall" in an online statement.
"Windsor needs the CTS site NOW! We cannot wait any longer. We must show up for our community and urge city council to vote NO on this motion."
The announcement of the rally comes about 48 hours after McKenzie said on AM800's Live and Local that he does not support any location for a safe consumption and treatment site in WIndsor.
“I’m all about spending money on addiction and recovery services for addicts instead of enabling them to take more drugs," said McKenzie, adding he campaigned in last fall's election on reversing council’s decision to support a CTS.
“I’ve dealt with addicts in the past, friends, some family members unfortunately as well, and one of the ways to fix that addiction is you've got to get them out of that environment."
He doesn’t believe the city needs a CTS — but if one must be established, he thinks it belongs in the hospital. Instead, he's calling for money to be spent on more mental health services in Windsor.
“People who suffer from mental health should be getting treatment. They shouldn’t get a quote ‘safe spot’ to do their illicit drugs,” said McKenzie.
Following Agostino's announcement that he would introduce the motion, Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association chair Brian Yeomans took to social media to express his disappointment. Speaking to CTV News on Sunday, Yeomans said it is "unnecessary" for council to reconsider its previous support of the CTS location.
"People are already using there right now. People are in those parking lots and in those alleys using drugs right now. Putting it in a building can reduce the amount of visibility of the people using which seems to be what [the people opposed to the location] are so concerned about," said Yeomans.
In a joint letter issued Sunday afternoon, faith leaders from more than 25 places of worship wrote directly to city councillors, asking them to continue supporting the location of the CTS on Wyandotte St. E.
"We remind you that this Consumption and Treatment site has already been approved democratically. This is, by majority, something the community has demonstrated it wants," the letter reads.
"If there is a motion against the current location, there has to be correlating community data which proves the residents, community partners, and businesses do not want this here - not anecdotal evidence."
According to Michael Brennan, executive director of Pozitive Pathways, a Windsor-based advocacy group for people living with or at risk of getting sexually transmitted infections, safe consumption sites have nothing to do with enabling people who may abuse substances.
Brennan added CTS is valuable because healthcare staff can meet a user “where they are at” in order to gain trust, build a relationship and help them begin the process of sobriety.
“We do that using people with lived experience and medical or social expertise to connect them to either the resources that they need at that moment, and or a treatment recovery support plan that will work to reduce harm to themselves,” said Brennan.
Pozitive Pathways, he said, has been working alongside the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) and other local agencies for “many years” to establish a CTS to save lives.
They released a statement late Friday in support of moving forward with the CTS — slated to open by the end of March — and to launch a petition for residents to sign.
Brennan said Saturday they have had to “exhaustively” present their case to city council “over and over again," adding when he heard Coun. Renaldo Agostino would ask council to reverse their support on Monday, he was “confused.”
“Communication is expected but not reciprocated by these councillors and for them to be fully informed and that's what I find disingenuous around the process,” said Brennan.
WECHU hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday on the CTS, covering all issues on the subject.
Windsor city council meets Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. Agostino’s notice of motion will be heard closer to the end of the meeting. At least 21 delegates are set to speak on the motion.
Following a request for comment, Ward 7 Coun. Angelo Marignani said he will "conduct further research" on the issue and hear from all delegates before coming to a decision on how he will vote.
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