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Sudbury's much-anticipated opioid drug summit opens Thursday

Two-day summit will feature more than a dozen speakers, including Mayor Paul Lefebvre and federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks, but media is excluded from the event

Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) said Monday the much-touted Summit on Toxic Drugs, slated for this Thursday and Friday, will exclude the news media from the event.

This follows an inquiry from on Monday about the meeting venue along with a detailed inquiry about the summit agenda, the key speakers and details on the presentation topics.

The PHSD communications office responded that the summit, which is organized by the health unit and the City of Greater Sudbury, is set up as an invitation-only event. Media will not be invited into the room.

The health unit said media releases will be provided along with the availability of some speakers for interviews.

"While this event is by invitation only — not an open or public meeting — and the venue has limited capacity, we do have plans to host media availability with some Summit participants, speakers, and organizers," said a reply from the communications office.

The idea of the summit was first revealed in June when the PHSD Board of Health was asked to vote on a motion titled "Drug/Opioid Crisis Leadership Summit."

The motion stated the executive committee of the Sudbury Community Drug Strategy for the City of Greater Sudbury (CDS-CGS) has strongly endorsed the need for a local leadership summit on the escalating drug toxicity crisis.

While the media is not allowed to attend the actual summit proceedings or cover the speakers actual comments, the health unit said some summit speakers will be available afterwards for interviews.

"The City of Greater Sudbury and Public Health Sudbury & Districts would like to extend an invitation to attend the closing remarks of the Greater Sudbury Summit on Toxic Drugs at 12:45 p.m. at the Dr. Edgar Leclair Community Centre and Arena on Friday, December 8," said a PHSD news release. 

Greater Sudbury Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre, who is chair of the board of health, defended the decision to exclude the media during the actual proceedings. He said there was a need to respect the privacy of some speakers.

"It was discussed quite a bit, and many of our presenters as well as people with lived experience, and other people that will speak in regards to a lost loved one, asked to ensure that they would speak only if there was no publication on that piece," said Lapierre.

He said there was some discussion of allowing the media in the room at different times to accommodate different speakers, but it was seen as a logistics issue.

"We decided on the approach that the media wasn't going to participate actively, every single day all day," said Lapierre.

He said there would be "a media blitz" at the end of day one and this would be followed by interview opportunities at the end of day two.

Presented to Sudbury City Council on Oct. 24, a staff report stated that costs associated with the Greater Sudbury Summit on Toxic Drugs will be "funded through the existing surplus in Children and Social Services in 2023."

At the time, it was estimated that the total cost for the summit would be approximately $140,000, with costs shared with Public Health Sudbury and District.

When asked for updated information as to the costs, the city stated that spending details are not yet available, but that “Public Health Sudbury & Districts has been responsible for costs associated with speakers and report writing while the City of Greater Sudbury has supported logistics.”

Len Gillis covers health care and mining for

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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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