‘Damaging and demoralizing’: Cambridge mayor reacts to CTS pamphlet mailout

A Cambridge MPP is accused of sending residents misinformation about a proposed consumption and treatment services site.

City leaders and health care officials are speaking out about a pamphlet that was mailed out earlier this week by MPP Belinda Karahalios.

In it, she said the consumption and treatment services site in Cambridge would offer “taxpayer-funded opioids and stimulants.”

The pamphlet also showed images of needles and said: “This so-called safe supply of drugs for distribution would work in tandem with a drug consumption site in our community.”

It then asked people to share their opinions on the city’s plan for the consumption and treatment services site through an online survey.

Mayor Kathryn McGarry said the pamphlet is “weaponizing harm reduction” by creating fear and stigmatization in the community.

She called it damaging and demoralizing.

“Many of our residents are struggling, and we’ve lost 100 people in the City of Cambridge over the last four years to prevent overdoses. This is a health-related issue and the community doesn’t weigh in on any other issues about where our health centers are being placed. But in this case, harm reduction is being weaponized by a small vocal minority.”

McGarry also pointed out that these sites are part of a provincial program for harm reduction which also offers wraparound services.

She added for some people, it’s a matter of life or death.

“Too many people have died while others play politics,” McGarry told CTV News.

The pamphlet was brought up during the Region of Waterloo council meeting on Wednesday night. The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Committee said they had received calls from people who were upset by the mailout.

“My instant thought went to those families that recently lost their loved ones to overdose, and how devastating it would be to receive that pamphlet with that misinformation,” said Jesse Burt with the drug action team for the Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Committee. “It’s deeply concerning and frustrating.”

In a statement to CTV News, Karahalios said the pamphlet was approved under the legislative rules.

The statement reads, in part: “I represent the people of the riding of Cambridge and they are overwhelmingly against a drug injection site that will result in more lives being lost.”

“Substance use is already happening in our community, with the CTS or not,” said Kristin Kerr, with the Cambridge North Dumfries Ontario Health Team. “In fact, having a CTS will provide people with a safe place to use, which means there will be less people using substances on the streets.”

The Cambridge North Dumfries Ontario Health Team are one of the local agencies trying to combat the misinformation in the pamphlet.

“A consumption and treatment site is a health service that provides a sterile and safe place for people to inject pre-obtained drugs,” said Kerr. “It’s a place where they can consume both substances, but also get treatment.”

Cambridge council has already given its approval to turn 150 Main Street into a consumption and treatment site, though planning is still in the early stages.

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