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Supervised consumption site in Toronto apologizes for offering candy in exchange for used needles

An image of the flyer displayed in the window of South Riverdale Community Health Centre Toronto. (@GinnyRothTO/Twitter) An image of the flyer displayed in the window of South Riverdale Community Health Centre Toronto. (@GinnyRothTO/Twitter)
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A supervised consumption site in Toronto’s east end is apologizing after they offered chocolate to neighbourhood residents in exchange for used needles.

A flyer, posted by COUNTERfit, a women’s harm reduction program, garnered criticism online after a photograph was shared on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“Got Sharps? Want Chocolate? For every full sharps container you return to COUNTERfit, we’ll give you a chocolate bar,” the flyer in the window of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC), reads.

“Thanks for working with us to keep our community litter-free!”

It is unclear how long the flyers were displayed at the community centre.

The SRCHC has existed as a supervised consumption site since 2017, and COUNTERfit is a harm reduction program at the centre providing trauma-informed, specialized support for women.

These sites have been found to reduce the risk of accidental overdoses and public drug use, and connect people to healthcare and treatment and other social services. 

Some residents of the area were quick to express their disapproval of the flyer. Ginny Roth, a partner at Toronto Public Affairs firm Crestview Strategy, tweeted an image of the flyer on Sunday, which has since been viewed over 590,000 times.

“If you live in Leslieville and you’re concerned about your kids picking up needles that surround the drug consumption site, you don’t have to worry. In fact, if your kids collect enough they can trade them in for chocolate,” Roth wrote.

The flyer caught the attention of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Monday.

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Jason Altenberg, SRCHC’s CEO, apologized for any miscommunication the flyer brought.

“In an exuberance to get used needles off the street, one of our staff posted a sign that was never meant for the public,” Altenberg said in a statement. “In no way, shape, or form was that communication meant for children.”

NEARBY FATAL DAYTIME SHOOTING

Following the fatal daytime shooting of Toronto mother, Karolina Huebner-Makurat, which took place last month, just steps away from the centre, residents have expressed concerns to CTV News Toronto surrounding the program.

Ashley Kea, a parent who lives nearby the SRCHC, told CTV News Toronto her son found a bag of fentanyl on the way to Morse Street Junior Public School back in May. The school is 160 metres away from the centre.

While Kea said she supports the work of the supervised consumption site, she wants to see the centre take responsibility for the areas surrounding their facility.

Following the shooting, the SRCHC issued a statement on the actions it will take to ensure everyone feels safe in their neighbourhood, which included going door-to-door to speak with community members of their safety concerns, and speaking with an alternative security company dedicated to supporting the unhoused and those with substance use addiction or mental health challenges.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Beth Macdonell. 

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