Toronto spends over $33K to put city branding on free crack pipe and drug use kits

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Toronto has paid more than $33,000 over the past three years to put Toronto Public Health branding on crack pipe and other drug use kits given out to the city’s addicts, according documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

In May, Anthony Furey, a former Toronto Sun columnist and candidate for mayor of Toronto, released images of the Toronto Public Health branding on baggies that contained fresh crack pipes.

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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation filed an access to information request, seeking details about the cost of the crack pipe stickers and how many had been distributed for free under the city’s The Works program.

“If the public-health official is handing the equipment to the drug addict there’s absolutely no need to spend $34,000 on stickers to show that it’s from the City of Toronto, when that money could otherwise be spent on helping food banks or buying mitts and hats for children as the winter comes,” said Jay Goldberg, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Ontario director.

The Works, a harm-reduction office founded in 1989 at the height of the HIV epidemic, offers and operates addictions counselling, nursing, opioid agonist treatment, supervised injection sites, drug purity testing and provides clean needles and smoking supplies.

It also includes its branding on its drug use kits.

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The city’s response to the taxpayers federation found that 166,392 such kits were handed out between 2020 and July 13, 2023. The branded stickers are included on crack smoking kits, crystal meth kits, injection kits and foil kits for smoking heroin, fentanyl and other drugs.

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The city said that each sticker costs about 20 cents.

All told, the sticker program cost $33,561.27 over less than three years.

The city spent $5,413.02 on the stickers in 2020 and $9,459.73 in 2021. In 2022, the most expensive year for the program, Toronto spent $11,709.22. So far this year, it has spent $6,979.22.

“It’s not a public health issue. This is a taxpayer waste issue,” said Goldberg.

As of 2014, The Works was also handing out about 1.3 million clean needles to addicts each year.

Safe drug use kits have caused controversy recently. Earlier this year, a B.C. school district was forced to apologize after a speaker appeared to have handed out “safe snorting” equipment to students, complete with a booklet that explained which drugs can be snorted.

“You may be new to snorting drugs or have snorted drugs for many years. Either way, this resource has something for you,” reads the booklet’s introduction.

The Cowichan Valley School District said the materials “were left at one of our school sites” following a harm-reduction and drug addiction presentation done by a third party. The district said it did not consider the kits “school or age appropriate,” and said it was undertaking a “full investigation” of its policies around third-party presentations.

National Post, with additional reporting by Tristin Hopper

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