By Janice Arsenault Our neighborhood is in a period of transformation, but what is it transforming into? That is the question that is on the minds of many of the residents in Ward 3. Do we have any say on what the future holds for our community, or are the decisions being made by those who do not live here while professing to know what is best for us? When we, as a community, are afraid to speak the truth for fear of retribution, we lose control of how our community will look and develop into the future. Homeless shelters and Consumption and Treatment Sites, also known as a safe injection sites, are a social necessity in Hamilton but the important question that needs to be asked is where is the best place for them to be located? Should they be in areas that are predominately business oriented, or should they be located in areas that are predominately residential. It would seem that the City of Hamilton has decided that locating these services in residential neighborhoods is the better choice. I would argue that the opposite is true. Everyone who lives in our community deserves to be treated with respect and dignity but one groups’ rights should never take priority over another’s. It is a delicate balancing act to ensure that everyone feels safe and welcomed in our great City. When the rights of one group supersede the rights of another is when we have a problem. When the residents are afraid to speak their truth because they fear retribution from others then nobody wins. Hamilton, along with every other City in Canada, is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Is the answer to this crisis to open more Consumption and Treatment Sites (CTS) to enable those who are addicted to safely continue down the road of addiction, or is the answer to open more Addiction Rehab Treatment Centres to help those with addictions down the road to recovery and becoming important and contributing members of our community? In the short term a CTS may seem the best answer as they are a quick answer to the problem and easy to push onto a community that is afraid to speak up. In the short term safe consumption sites address the problem at hand by reducing the number of deaths due to overdose. One thing that a CTS does not do is reduce or eliminate the originating issue which is opioid addiction. In the long term the best solution to a crisis is to eliminate it or reduce the negative effects of the crisis. Treatment facilities are the long-term answer to the opioid crisis and sadly lacking in our community. Although rehab facilities may be more expensive to set up and maintain, the long-term benefits of them far outweigh the short term benefits of CTS sites. When we allow our City Council to make the decisions on how our neighbourhood will look and what services will be moved into our local community we allow their voice to diminish ours. We live and work in Ward 3. We raise our children, care for our green spaces and clean our alleyways as a community. We know what we want and what we need to make our neighbourhood better. It is time that we used our voice to let Council know what we will tolerate and what we won’t. Do we put the rights of opioid users from all over the city to have access to a safe consumption site in our neighbourhood, close to our children’s schools first, or do we put the rights of our children and other vulnerable residents to a safe community as our priority? As one Candidate for Ward 3 Councillor put it during a recent debate, “there is no Goldilocks location” for a CTS. I don’t believe that the only two CTS sites in Hamilton should be located less than 2 km from each other, that both locations should be within two blocks of elementary schools and a secondary school, that the only CTS sites in Hamilton should be located in the same Ward, or that the best location for a CTS site is smack dab in the middle of residential neighbourhoods. While we can all agree on the need for facilities like CTS sites and homeless shelters in our City, the location of them seems to have been given little thought other than to locate them out of the re-envisioned downtown core where the need is the greatest. If the residents of our community speak out and show up to our current Councillors office to voice our concerns about Ward 3 becoming the dumping ground of Hamilton, we can make a difference. Even though the ground has broken for the new construction of the CTS site at 430 Cannon St. E, the doors have not yet opened and there is still time to make a difference. Speak out, show up in person at City Hall and most important of all, find out where all the candidates for Ward 3 stand on this issue and vote accordingly. You can see the most recent debate on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AON4SWVHvwU . I encourage everyone to watch the debate, not only each candidates stand on CTS sites but to see where they stand on other issues as well. This is our neighbourhood community and we should have a say in how it evolves and transforms. It is time for residents to stop being afraid of being criticized of NIMBYism (not in my backyard) and to stand up and speak out for what is in the best interests of our children, the elderly, the vulnerable and all other residents who live, work, play and go to school in Ward 3. It is time to stop putting our needs second to whatever cause is politically correct in the moment and start to look for long term solutions to our community problems such as Addiction Rehab Centres and affordable housing. If we continue to only propose short term solutions our community will not be served well. Short term solutions only put a band aid on the problem and we all know what happens to band aids – they fail, they fall off and in the long run do not solve nor heal the problem, they only hide the problem. Normalizing behaviours that are illegal, and were until recent years, seen as unacceptable may be unintentionally sending the wrong message to our children. Do we really want to have our children growing up to believe that although an activity may be harmful or possibly illegal, that it is socially acceptable and the community owes you the opportunity to continue your illegal lifestyle choice and will do everything to make it as safe as possible for you to continue, but will not help you to stop harming yourself? This is not the message that I want to send to the next generation.