Hamilton councillor responds to integrity commissioner complaint stemming from safe drug use site support


Published March 10, 2023 at 11:49 am

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann.

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann is facing an integrity commissioner complaint stemming from her support of consumption and treatment services (CTS), a harm-reduction strategy aimed at decreasing fatal opioid overdoses.

The backlash is led by ex-mayor Bob Bratina and businessman Walter Furlan, who challenged Nann — unsuccessfully — in the Ward 3 councillor race last fall.

Nann responded through a statement on Friday (March 10) after reports that a complaint had been filed against her by a Bratina and Furlan-helmed group called “Residents of the Barton-Gage-Sherman Neighbourhood.” The crux of the group’s issue is how Hamilton’s board of health and city council — which are the same people — endorsed a non-profit’s application for a CTS site on Barton St.

On Feb. 22, council voted 13-2 in favour of supporting the application that The AIDS Network (TAN) made to senior levels of government for a second CTS in the city. The TAN organization found a landlord at 746 Barton St. who is willing to support the site in order for the group, with city support, to attempt a public health intervention. At the board of health meeting on Feb. 13, there was unanimous 12-0 support.

The opioids-related death rate in Hamilton is 45 per cent higher than the Ontario rate, and has nearly doubled over the past decade. Men between the ages of 25 and 44 are over-represented in the death toll.

“Consumption treatment services are health; and like the delivery of other health care, services should be located based on need and not political will,” Nann wrote in a statement she posted publicly on Friday morning (March 10).

“I believe Hamilton has the opportunity to be a centre of excellence in care and healing instead of having a drug poisoning rate that is 45 per cent higher than the provincial average. The Board of Health and City Council has an obligation to take action and I stand by the decision.”

How that came to pass has prompted a filing against Nann. The ratification motion, though, was moved by Mayor Andrea Horwath, and included specific language about “community engagement.” The complaint focuses on the fact that a motion was brought at a meeting without being in the publicly accessible agenda, which is allowable, and also says Nann made remarks that were “incendiary.”

In part, it reads, “Questionable procedural issues took place during the meeting. A councillor asked the chair directly whether a motion to approve the site would come forward. The answer was evasive but the result was in fact a walk-on motion approving the disputed site in spite of the residents’ delegation stating that they had not been properly consulted, that they were not advised of the meeting, and that the agenda did not include a motion regarding 746 Barton Street East. Further, when final approval came before City Council February 22, 2023 in the face of concerns expressed by some members of council, Councillor Nann proceeded to make incendiary remarks in describing those opposing the site.”

The board of health agenda was online at least four days before the meeting. Numerous supporters of the TAN application delegated in favour. Furlan and Scott Gervais were the only two delegates to take umbrage with the process, claiming there was inadequate consultation.

No accredited medical professional delegated against the CTS application and the Twitter account dedicated to TAN’s CTS application says representatives met with Furlan as far back as September 2021.

“We were in his (Furlan’s) space dating back to September 8th, 2021 when we first canvassed the area to discuss our proposed location,” they wrote. “Being displeased with a consultation doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been one.”

‘Pejorative’ remarks were hurled — at Nann

At council on Feb. 22, Nann did not mention anyone by name when she stated she has “received accounts of individuals in medical distress who are experiencing the effects of toxic drug supply being harmed and exploited.” Horwath had to advise people sitting in the gallery not to “use pejorative terms toward our councillor.”

What was said and who said it was inaudible on the live feed.

Nann, in her statement, also noted that the opponents of the location are not even using the correct term for the site TAN plans to operate, with support from Hamilton Public Health Services.

“The statement released by the group continues to inaccurately refer to the site of (the) application as a ‘safe injection site’ when it is actually a Consumption Treatment Services site,” she writes. “The distinction is quite important as CTS sites are proven to save and transform lives.

“… I have listened deeply to the concern of all my residents, including the vast majority who understand the complexity of the issue and support safe consumption services as a best practice for healing.”

Nann also stood by her statement about harms committed against people who are in medical distress.

“There are individuals who have been prominent in their opposition to the CTS application who have taken residents and medical distress… and dropped them off at the doorsteps of those who see the need for the services in this area… I was clear in my statements at council that these acts are by a vocal few.”

Public data shows that 139 people in Hamilton lost their lives to confirmed or probable opioid-related causes within the first 10 months of 2022. TAN sent a tweet on Friday morning supporting Nann

“She has been active in providing critical feedback on our application process and setting clear expectations on the consultation process. We appreciate her ongoing support of people impacted by the toxic drug crisis while still advocating for ALL residents in Ward 3.”


Bratina was mayor from 2010 to ’14 and was also a Liberal member of Parliament for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek from 2015 to ’21.

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