Support for 2nd CTS site in Hamilton ratified by city council


Published February 22, 2023 at 5:08 pm

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann.

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann said opponents of the proposed CTS (consumption and treatment services) site in Ward 3 had actually proved the need for it through some of their alleged tactics.

The elected leadership of Hamilton, by a 13-2 vote, ratified its support today (Feb. 22) for the application that The AIDS Network (TAN) has made to the Ontario Ministry of Health for a CTS at 746 Barton St., within Nann’s east-end ward. By the same decisive margin, councillors and Mayor Andrea Horwath also approved an amendment that calls for a more “robust” consultation with residents, who have 1,200 signatures on a petition opposing the location.

But the public health intervention is aimed to address an opioids death rate in Hamilton that is 45 per cent above the ever-rising provincial rate, with men ages 25 to 44 making up the bulk of the nearly 140 lives lost in the city in the first 10 months of 2022. And Nann, without naming names, said opponents of a CTS in Ward 3 have jeopardized the welfare of people who are in medical distress.

“There is a difference between inciting fear and being afraid,” Nann said. “I have heard of people inciting fear, intimidating neighbours near the Barton-Lottridge area… those supporters have been harassed, they’ve been targeted, and they’ve been threatened. And most disturbingly, I have received accounts of individuals in medical distress who are experiencing the effects of toxic drug supply being harmed and exploited. This is completely inhumane and fully criminal in my eyes.

“And yet, the very act of dropping people off on the steps of CTS supporters speaks to the need for safe spaces in this area. You actually made the point that this is needed.

“I am done with enabling that kind of hate,” she added.

What said in the gallery was inaudible on the City of Hamilton’s live feed. But Mayor Andrea Horwath had to advise people in the gallery, “Please don’t engage in the debate and certainly don’t use pejorative terms toward our councillor.”

Former mayor Bob Bratina, who finished third in the mayoral race last fall with 41,780 fewer votes than Horwath, was in the gallery. The runner-up to Nann in the Ward 3 race, businessman Walter Furlan, has also been a leader in opposing the choice of 746 Barton.

A 2017 report to the board of health affirmed that Hamilton needs a second CTS site. (The other one is in Ward 2.) Since then, there have been over 600 opioids-related deaths in Hamilton. In addition to men in their late 20s through early 40s being overrepresented, construction and skilled trades workers, and parademics, are also more vulnerable. An International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local and the Hamilton Police are among the endorsers of The AIDS Network’s proposal.

“We either want a safe centre or we want an ad hoc series of unsafe centres, which exacerabate the types of fears which are exacerbated in the absence of a centre,” Ward 15 Coun. Ted McMeekin observed prior to the linked votes.

The amendment vote, which tasks Hamilton Public Health Services with supporting community consultation if the CTS application is accepted, also passed 13-2 (see graphic, below).

All representatives voted the same way both times. Nann, Mayor Horwath, and (by order of ward) Couns. Cameron Kroetsch (2), Tammy Hwang (4), Tom Jackson (6), John-Paul Danko (8), Brad Clark (9), Jeff Beattie (10), Mark Tadeson (11), Craig Cassar (12), Alex Wilson (13), Mike Spadafora (14), and the aforementioned McMeekin were in favour.

Couns. Matt Francis (5) and Esther Pauls (7) were opposed. Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson was absent.

Francis pointed to the 1,200-signature-strong petition as a reason for reversing his prior vote at the board of health. He noted that he had worked on initiatives that involved petitioning in his days as a community organizer. Francis was elected last fall when he won the municipal seat long occupied by Hamilton East—Stoney Creek MP Chad Collins, who had replaced Bratina in the federal Liberal caucus.

“It speaks volumes for the community when that many people, in the range of 1,200, have signed a petition opposing this site,” Francis stated. “It would be super-hypocritical of me, with my history of petitioning, to support this.”

Pauls also tried for a “friendly amendent” that appeared to push for decommitting from the 746 Barton site. But she couldn’t find a seconder.

“To have other sites considered at the same time, I find it hard to have community engagement when it’s already there,” Pauls said.

Nann and Horwath each noted, at different times, that TAN applied to the province for the CTS, and the city has simply been deciding how to commit public health resources. Nann said an amendent to consider other sites would not align with the application, and noted an agency applying for a CTS does not have to consult residents.

“I can’t consider that because that’s not in compliance with the ministry,” Nann said.

Earlier, Horwath noted, “Part of the problem with the whole system is these things are approved by the province. There’s not much involvement from the municipalities unless we choose to get involved.”

Prior to debate, Nann tweeeted a graphic that shows the harm reduction outcomes from a CTS in Kitchener, Ont., that opened in 2019.

“The doom and gloom that many predicted has not occurred,” Nann said.

The Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (HAMSmart), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre are among the partners in the proposed CTS.

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