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'Welcome to Toronto' sign altered to read 'Ontario's capital in overdose deaths'

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 10:07 pm EST

An unofficial addition has been made to a sign welcoming drivers to Toronto that casts the province’s capital in a less than flattering light.

The sign, on the border with Mississauga along Burnamthorpe Road, used to read “Welcome to Toronto. Ontario’s capital.” With the unauthorized addendum, it now reads “Ontario’s capital in overdose deaths.”

The addition appears to be a plank covered in a vinyl sign, printed to mimic the original sign’s colours and font, attached below it with zip-ties.

CityNews viewers alerted us to the changes and say a few signs in the area have been altered in this manner.

According to the chief coroner’s office, an estimated 50 to 80 people per week are dying of overdoses in Ontario.

Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the opioid crisis. Opioid overdoses have risen sharply since March as the border closure and limited access to services raise fatal risks for drug users.

It is unclear who created the additional signage and whether it is in fact referring to this disturbing rise in numbers — a stark reversal of the 13 per cent decline in fatal opioid overdoses between 2018 and 2019.

The signs were addressed in the city’s daily COVID-19 briefing question and answer session on Monday.

Mayor John Tory said he has repeatedly expressed “deep concern” about the overdose rates and feels not enough attention has been given to the issue.

“While this isn’t necessarily the single best way to draw attention to this, it is something that’s got us talking about it and I think the more we talk about it the more we advocate for greater action on the part of all governments,” said Tory.

Tory said Toronto Public Health has a “significant harm reduction program,” but added that the city needs more provincial support.

The city said the signs have been addressed by city staff and have now been corrected.

With files from The Canadian Press

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