A tale of two Canadian cities: Comparing supervised consumption site (SCS) policy making in Toronto and Vancouver [2017]

The Canadian government recently sanctioned a supervised consumption site (SCS) that is currently in Vancouver, British Columbia. The government is open to sanctioning more sites across the country; however, by law the federal health minister must consider whether such facilities are supported by local governments representing the cities where the sites are proposed to be located. Until 2016, the government of Canada’s largest city, Toronto, did not support SCSs. Drawing on Lenton cannabis policy research, this study analyses government documents, policy papers, scientific reports, and newspaper articles and secondary literature to identify some of the significant barriers that minimised the likelihood that Toronto’s council would support SCSs between 2003 and 2016. The report compares conditions in Toronto to those of Vancouver where SCSs have enjoyed council support since 2001. This study find that three conditions play an important role in explaining why SCSs were supported in Vancouver 14 years before they were endorsed in Toronto: (1) Strong public support; (2) Favourable electoral conditions; and (3) Law enforcement support. Changes in Toronto surrounding these conditions help explain why its council endorsed SCSs in 2016. This study concludes that Lenton’s research holds utility as a socio-legal theory of municipal drug policy change.

Steven Hayle

Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, Volume 25, 2018 – Issue 5