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By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle

On March 28, vigils were held around the province protesting the closure and lack of funding for safe injection sites.

This action coincided with recent updates on the Government of Canada’s website about the overdose crisis which acknowledges that “the opioid crisis is a national public health crisis that continues to devastate individuals, families, and communities.” (see

A bilateral agreement was signed between the Federal Government and the Ontario Provincial Government that includes significant funding.

This commitment is based on the understanding that: “Providing people dealing with problematic substance use with access to treatment in their own communities ultimately helps people who use drugs to live healthier lives. Supporting harm reduction measures is an integral part of the Government of Canada’s strategy to addressing the opioid crisis.”

Safe injection sites are a harm reduction option that are proven to be a valuable resource for not only those who are struggling with substance use disorders, but also the wider community. Safe injection sites provide safe spaces for drug consumption which take users off the streets, allows for monitoring to reduce the potential for overdose, and helps keep the neighbourhood free of needles which are safely disposed of on site.

Given these sites include important resources and supports, they can also help reduce incidents involving police and paramedics and can encourage treatment. There are significant benefits to safe injection sites, not the least of which is that these sites can be literally life saving, and yet these spaces continue to be challenged by neighbourhoods, communities, and leaders.

March 28 also happened to be Maundy Thursday, the day we remember when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. When we read John’s version of this moment, we are reminded that Jesus took off his outer robe, tied a towel around himself, and washed the feet of those he knew would abandon, deny, and betray him. There is no indication that Jesus paused to determine who was worthy of this act of love. He washed feet to give his friends a share with him and to challenge them to love as he loved.

What would it look like for us to embrace that story in relation to those who are suffering from substance use disorder? Can we look past the social attitudes that make it somehow acceptable to assume the worst about these individuals and abandon them to their addiction? To what extent might our efforts to respect the dignity of those struggling with substance use disorder enable us to see each person as a beloved child of God, sitting at the table when Jesus washed feet? How might recognizing Christ in the persons of those dealing with addictions challenge and inspire us to advocate for life saving health care?

We acknowledge that the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and body and love our neighbours as ourselves. Can we admit that we wouldn’t want to be abandoned because of perceived choices we make that impact our health and wellbeing? How does that admission challenge us to love our neighbours even though there may be those who want to judge them believing their addiction to be some flaw in their character? What more can we do to love as Jesus loved, those neighbours whose addictions continue to challenge them and the communities in which they live?

We might want to start by examining our own prejudices and assumptions. Education is important. It is easy to get trained about and access to naloxone, a life-saving resource when overdoses happen. Consider writing the government, ensuring that funding gets to safe injection sites to better support the health and wellbeing of those struggling with addictions. Watch for announcements about other opportunities to advocate on behalf of vulnerable people.

We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves modeled after the love of Jesus who washed feet. How willing are we to humble ourselves and, metaphorically, wash the feet of those who are imperfect? How willing are we to love so fully that we find ourselves having a share with one another? How willing are we to be uncomfortable for the sake of the Kingdom?

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is a co-chair of SEJH and a co-chair of Justice League of Huron.


Hours after this article was submitted for the paper, a friend and colleague reached out for prayers. He had been called to the hospital after a young man whom he has known for nearly a decade was found overdosed. The man had been alone in that state for so long, his body temperature was 23 when he arrived at the hospital. He was brain dead and his mom wanted prayers as they were taking him off life support. Sadly, he wanted a better life. He had tried to deal with his addiction numerous times but without proper support to address the trauma and pain from which he was self medicating, he eventually lost to the power of addiction. Perhaps the only grace in this story is knowing that he is now surrounded by the love he needs for true healing. My friend noted that his eyes closed during the Lord's Prayers, a sign of peace at last.