Nestled in the heart of Southwestern Ontario lies the 370,000-strong suburban city of London. Scattered about this quaint chunk of land are five methadone clinics and 18 methadone pharmacies. These government-funded facilities offer methadone, a narcotic used to wean people off of drugs like heroin and other opiates.
One of the more popular of these lies across the street from one of London’s biggest high schools. Another is being planned for erection beside an ice cream shop in the city’s west end.
To address this plan, London’s city council held a public meeting at a local church Wednesday night. The public consultation was specifically for input on an application to amend the zoning bylaw regarding the property scoped out for the clinic.
The purpose of a public consultation is for city council to hear all sides of an argument and consider all implications, right? Wrong. At least, that’s what the Ontario Human Rights Commission seems to think.
In a letter to London’s mayor and city councilors, Barbara Hall, chief comrade of the OHRC warns that the city can be punished if any citizen speaks their mind against what the OHRC deems to be “discriminatory language or preducial comments” about drug addicts who would be using the clinic in question. In fact, Hall even implied that any discussion about addiction should be off limits when discussing this property, ordering council to “State that the only issues open for discussion are legitimate land use issues… Advise attendees that the meeting will not be a forum to make negative comments about [addicts].”
Even more startlingly, Hall’s letter says that any public meetings on zoning “reinforce the incorrect assumption that neighbourhood residents have the right to approve who moves in next door.”
For a government agency to attempt to censor anyone from speaking at a public consultation is, in and of itself, ludicrous, but to deny citizens of a major city the right to question whether or not free drugs should be handed out to addicts in a highly concentrated residential area is downright criminal.
Ignoring the constitution is nothing new for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Despite assurances by spokeswoman Rosemary Bennett that “We’re not being the thought police,” the Commission has a history of making it up as they go.
Bennett also said, “We watch people walk out (of these meetings) in tears, and that’s not conducive to building communities.”
If the entire justification of the OHRC’s unwelcome meddling in a municipal matter is that a drug addict might get their feelings hurt, it begs the question of why a government department is tasked with boosting the morale of individuals who find themselves addicted to drugs, the vast majority of which are criminally acquiring them.
Perhaps there’s a need for methadone clinic, perhaps not. When the taxpayers are footing the bill, they have a right to have a say in the debate. If Barbara Hall seems so intent on preserving the sacred right of methadone to Ontario’s addicts, perhaps she can open up her own backyard each morning.