Thunder Bay Drug Strategy says it “wants to do this right”

Cynthia Olsen, coordinator of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy

THUNDER BAY – Seven months after the release of a feasibility study that concluded Thunder Bay needs two supervised injection sites for drug users, an advisory committee continues to work behind the scenes to advance the project.

The report authors recommended safe injection sites be established in both the north and the south downtown areas, citing as benefits the reduced transmission of infectious diseases, fewer overdoses and a chance to promote access to addiction treatment.

The research team surveyed 200 people in the city who use injection drugs, finding that about 74 per cent of them did so in the south core, while 17 per cent injected in the north core.

Cynthia Olsen, coordinator of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, says an advisory committee comprised largely of the same groups involved in the feasibility study has met a couple of times in recent months to discuss next steps.

She has also met face-to-face with people involved in establishing safe injection sites in Toronto and Ottawa, to see what their application to Health Canada looked like. “I’ve been able to bring that information back to the advisory committee here…at this point it’s just discussion, you know, figuring out what makes the most sense for our community,” Olsen told in an interview.

She added, however,  that “there is some sense that we should be moving as quickly as we can.”

Health Canada guidelines prescribe the criteria for public consultation and letters of support giving evidence of the need for a supervised injection site.

Olsen said before community consultation happens in Thunder Bay “We would need to develop a model…and consult with the community on the proposed model that would go forward, and you have to have evidence of the consultation as part of the application.”

Once the model is developed, she said, it will include proposed locations for the injection sites.

Olsen said that “ideally” a proposal will be ready for community input in the near future, but added that members of the advisory committee “want to ensure that we do this right.”

She’s not sure if getting all the necessary work done by the end of this year will be possible.

In the meantime, some stakeholders are holding their own discussions about safe injection sites for Thunder Bay.

Board members and partners of Elevate NWO, an organization providing confidential HIV/AIDS/ Hepatitis C and harm reduction education, prevention and support, will attend a meeting this week.

In an email to, a spokesperson stressed that it will be an information/education meeting only. “Elevate will play a role in (supervised injection sites) but at this point we have made no decisions as to what that role will look like,” the spokesperson stated.

Author: Gary Rinne