Skip to content

City issues trespass notice to volunteer-run consumption site

"If you aren’t going to allow us to operate on city property, what is your immediate response to the opioid crisis?” asks Karla Ghartey, one of STOPS’ founders
At 4:00 on Friday May 21, as the long weekend began, city officials issued a trespassing notice to the Sudbury Temporary Overdose Prevention Society (STOPS).

The notice of trespassing issued to STOPS refers specifically to the parking garage of the YMCA at 140 Durham Street (the city letter says it is also known as YMCA/CFL parking lot) where an encampment of homeless people had been set up. 

However, the notice to trespass was extended to all city property. It also states that breaching the notice, police may be notified to enforce the order.

The notice came as a surprise to the volunteers, says Karla Ghartey, one of STOPS founders. Not because it is out of line, she says, but because of the timing. 

Ghartey says bylaw officers have visited the site each day since February, an interaction Ghartey describes as the officers politely offering warning with STOPS politely accepting that warning.

But that changed on Friday. 

Ghartey says she believes it is in retaliation for the Poverty and Housing Coalition’s “sit-in protest” that occurred at the YMCA building at Memorial Park, and STOPS continued fundraising, heightened as of late by the groups view of an increasing need.  

Beth Mairs, an advocate for STOPS, wonders about the timing as well. 

“One interpretation of the notice, delivered end of day before a long weekend, could be that it’s a toothless threat,” said Mairs. “But we would never harass ICU doctors and nurses fighting COVID, that would be unthinkable. Why would the City threaten the very people, including health care providers, tackling Sudbury’s grimmest epidemic with possible arrest?”

STOPS says in a release that they have responded as a group to the notice emphasizing that “they follow the needs identified by the individuals in our community that utilize their services, and that, consequentially STOPS must be located where their clientele is, even if that is on City- owned property.”

STOPS is now calling upon Mayor Brian Bigger to visit them at their site, to increase collaboration between key partners and advance a unified approach to the critical issue of overdose prevention. 

Ghartey says it is critical that the City of Greater Sudbury offer real aid, especially, as she notes, the city announced that it could be up to 12 months before Sudbury has a supervised consumption site. “So far, it's all lip service.” said Ghartey. “There's no immediate, urgent response. 

She says the city claims to be offering help, “But they give no solution on how they can contribute to things happening now, and not in six months or a year's time. How many people are going to die in that time?”

Alison Lutz, the STOPS volunteer who replied to the Notice of Trespass email from the City, says: “To receive such a notice from by-law in the midst of the opioid crisis when people are dying at rates higher than anywhere else in Ontario- it’s really upsetting. It’s a tough blow for our community members and volunteers that are already fighting an uphill battle. Hopefully, by having the Mayor come see the reality of what’s going on, we’ll be able to collaborate from a place of mutual understanding. This isn’t political. It’s about upholding basic human rights and saving peoples' lives.”

Sudbury.com has reached out to the city regarding the situation and we are awaiting a response. 

The letter reads:

TRESPASS TO PROPERTY NOTICE 

TO: STOP Sudbury 

DATE: May 21, 2021 

FROM: CITY OF GREATER SUDBURY, Corporate Services 

It has come to our attention that STOP Sudbury has been utilizing the parking lot, at 140 Durham Street known as the YMCA/CFL parking lot, for a purpose not permitted. 

Please accept this Notice as official communication and the City has not consented to this use and it not willing to permit its continuation. 

TAKE NOTICE that pursuant to the Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O., 1990, Chapter T.21, Sections 2.(1)(a)(i) and 5, the City of Greater Sudbury gives Notice to STOP Sudbury, that effective immediately, entry is prohibited to all properties owned and operated by the City of Greater Sudbury. 

Any requirement to conduct essential business with the City of Greater Sudbury will require an agreed upon appointment as scheduled by the business unit or representative in advance of any attendance. 

If you attend any City facilities in breach of this Notice, the Greater Sudbury Police may be notified in accordance with Section 9.(1) of the Trespass to Property Act. 

Your cooperation concerning this matter is greatly appreciated.