The province’s ministry of health has launched a “critical incident review” of supervised consumption centres in Ontario following the death of a woman struck by a stray bullet near a Toronto site in the city’s east end last month.
In a statement, the ministry confirmed to CTV News Toronto that it will begin its review with the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC), located near Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue. The centre is just steps from where 44-year-old Karolina Huebner-Makurat, a mother of two young girls, was shot and killed while walking down the street on the afternoon of July 7.
“The Ministry of Health expects all Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) to comply with their strict requirements. Following the tragic incident last month, the ministry launched a critical incident review of the sites, starting with South Riverdale Community Health Centre,” a statement from the ministry read.
Police said Huebner-Makurat was killed after gunshots rang out following a physical altercation involving three men on the street.
Three people have been arrested in connection with the shooting and one suspect remains outstanding. One man has been charged with second-degree murder and another was charged with manslaughter, robbery, and failing to comply with a probation order.
This week, the SRCHC confirmed that an employee at the centre was also arrested in connection with the shooting and is facing one count of accessory to an indictable offence after the fact and one count of obstructing justice.
“We are extremely troubled by this latest development and reviewing what options are available to the government,” the ministry’s statement read.
Police are shown at the scene of a homicide investigation in Leslieville on Friday afternoon.
According to the centre, the employee was placed on leave for “unrelated concerns” on Aug. 9.
“These allegations are deeply concerning to us and to the community,” Jason Altenberg, the SRCHC’s CEO, and Emily Hill, interim board chair of the centre, said in a statement.
“They are also devastating and disappointing to the many SRCHC staff who work professionally and compassionately every day to deliver a range of essential health and wellbeing services to patients and clients in the area.”
Members of the community have spoken out about safety concerns in the neighbourhood in recent months.
A little more than a week prior to the shooting, an emergency meeting was held with a residents’ group to address criminal and other concerning activity around the centre.
One community member told CP24 that the main issues involved an increase in visible drug use, aggressive behaviour and fighting, overdoses, and open drug selling.
In a statement released at the end of July, Altenberg said the SRCHC is determined to find “solutions” and will work with “community and government partners to identify actions that will help address these complex and urgent challenges.”
He said they’ve retained an “alternative security company” to provide community safety teams trained to support those experiencing homelessness as well as those with substance use, addiction or mental health challenges. He said there is now “on-going presence outside of our building” as a result of the change.
He noted that the “increased volatility and behaviour issues” seen in the community over the last several months are not limited to Leslieville, adding that these “troubling shifts in behaviour” are happening across Toronto “as we witness the effects of poverty and homelessness compounded by a deepening mental health crisis and an increasingly toxic drug supply.”
“All this is happening while our justice system, housing and mental health services are overwhelmed by those in need,” he wrote.
“We also know that everyone should feel safe in their neighbourhood and that no one should die on our streets.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Ashley Legassic and Abby O’Brien and CP24’s Joanna Lavoie
The South Riverdale Community Health Centre is seen in this photograph (Beth Macdonell)