03/12/2016 02:17 EST | Updated 03/13/2017 05:12 EDT

Safe-Injection Sites Should Open Toronto, Top Health Official To Recommend

The city's medical officer of health will table a report on Monday calling on the city council to set up safe-injection sites to combat the growing number of drug overdose deaths in Toronto. 

If the city moves forward with Dr. David McKeown's recommendations — announced Saturday in a statement from Toronto Public Health — Toronto could become the second city in Canada to approve clinics where intravenous drug use is supervised by health-care officials.

Coun. Joe Cressy, who chairs the city's drug strategy panel, repeated his support for the idea on Sunday via Twitter. Cressy and McKeown are to hold a joint news conference on Monday.  

The InSite facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside became the first safe-injection site in Canada when it opened in 2013. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has long been pushing to establish similar sites in his city.

Other harm-reduction strategies in place

The number of overdose deaths in Toronto has risen 41 per cent between 2004 and 2013, peaking at 206 in '13, according the most recent numbers available from Toronto Public Health. 

Research from Vancouver and elsewhere shows such sites are effective in preventing drug overdoses and reducing the risk of disease transmission, Toronto health officials have argued. 

The city already has other harm-reduction strategies in place, including needle exchanges aimed at reducing the spread of HIV and other diseases spread by intravenous drug use. 

Toronto police have not commented on the proposal, but Chief Mark Saunders has previously stated safe-injection sites can be harmful to neighbourhoods. 

John Tory's office said the mayor will not comment on the issue until the report is tabled.

If the proposal is adopted by city council, there will still be more red tape to cut though. Under federal law, safe-injection sites must apply to Health Canada for exemptions from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

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