Mayor issues statement in response to documentary “Steel Town Down”


On Sunday evening Mayor Provenzano sent a tweet and also posted an update to his blog in response to the Saturday airing of the documentary ‘Steel Town Down: Overdose Crisis In The Soo’

The Mayor’s tweet stated: I have received a number of Facebook messages, emails and telephone calls since last night’s airing on W5 of the Vice Media production Steel Town Down. I want to offer my perspective:

Mayor Provenzano’s Blog post in full below:

W5 Documentary – Opioid Epidemic

I have received a number of Facebook messages, emails and telephone calls since last night’s airing on W5 of the Vice Media production “Steel Town Down”.  Some have been concerned with how the documentary portrayed our community, some with what the City is/is not doing to address the issues raised in the documentary and some with what I did/did not know about opioid abuse in our community.  To put it simply, the responses that I have received have been very mixed but consistently concerned.  I thought it would be helpful to offer my perspective.

First, I think we need to acknowledge and recognize that there are a lot of people in our community that struggle with substance abuse.  These people are often marginalized and they need the support of our larger community.  The opioid crisis that has spread across the Country is here and we are dealing with it, as best we can, on very limited resources. We need to do more, and do better, and the community at large, especially those that are in need, need to know we are trying.

There is a critical gap in services available in Sault Ste. Marie.  Sault Area Hospital (SAH) has applied to the North East Local Health Integrated Network and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for funding to improve our community’s infrastructure and the services that are offered here. I have supported these efforts. SAH will be at our next Council meeting outlining the project for Council (and the community) and we will commit to help SAH get the funding it needs.  It is important to note that this work was going on before, and independent of, the documentary.

With respect to the documentary itself, it was filmed in November.  I met Desiree Beck from the Group Health Centre earlier in the fall at the Recovery Luncheon.  I was asked to bring greetings on behalf of the City.  I attended to show my support and encouragement for people in recovery, those trying to get to recovery and the family, friends and frontline workers who provide a critical support network.  Desiree and I met at the luncheon and we agreed that she should come to City Hall to so we could speak further.  She wanted to give me a sense of what she is dealing with in the community and I wanted to hear from her.  We set up that meeting and the short clip featured on W5 was from that meeting.

I was aware Fentanyl was in our community and that our paramedics are administering Narcan with greater frequency.  I was aware of the larger socio-economic and mental health challenges in our community that relate to substance abuse.  I have spent the largest part of my mayoralty trying to create a system whereby we deal with these challenges more effectively.  I was not aware of the actual number of overdoses per month until the director of the documentary threw the statistic into the meeting from off camera.  No one had (or has) ever provided me with the actual overdose statistics.  That is not to say that the City does not recognize or is not aware of the overarching problem. It does and is.

A lot of people are really bothered by how our community is portrayed in the documentary. Many people feel that the documentary was imbalanced and partial to a narrow perspective. I agree that we do live in a beautiful, caring and engaging city.

There are a lot of positive things happening (and a number of really good initiatives) across our community which can rightly make us proud of our community and embrace it as a great place to live.  However, we have to recognize that what we saw in the documentary is real and that it is happening here.  We have to recognize that people are struggling, that families are in turn struggling and that people are dying.  This community, the one that is struggling with substance abuse issues, exists alongside and within our larger community.

We will not be helpful to the people in our community that need our help if we don’t start by acknowledging that the need exists.  It is why I went to the recovery luncheon to speak on behalf of the community.   It is why we support the Neighborhood Resource Centre, the Algoma Leadership Table and the United Way Poverty Plan. It is why I met with Desiree Beck.

For all of the great things about our city and happening in our city, substance abuse and the opioid epidemic are real and they are here.  And I want those people who are suffering and fighting through these challenges to know that they are important, that we acknowledge their challenge and that we are working to get them the support they need.


  1. How do you fix addictions exactly? You can’t, they are personal choices. The problem exists with the mindset within the city. Ever since I was young our city council told kids they were misfits and closed arcades, closed the parks early, and told us to stay home. There was nothing to do and the end result was people getting drunk and high. Instead of pretending we are going to change things overnight, tell our elders and police to stop being idiots and let kids be kids. Don’t tell us we can’t gather, and that getting together is a problem. I have people over and the cops are running plates, waited for a friend to leave because he had a sticker overdue one week, and knocking on my door because my old neighbour complains there are cars infront of his house. SMH… the problem is the peoples mindset… that is where it starts… and that is where it ends. Police sitting outside casing a friend because of a plate is a load of bull and only continues this towns sad pathetic mindset to stay at home and be miserable.

  2. Haven’t seen the documentary but the story of the one “kid” who seems hellbent on self destruction didn’t generate sympathy from me… it made me angry. This guy has loving parents who have stood by his oft illegal lifestyle.
    You wanna be a opi-dopey? Go ahead, but stop doing it on my dime.

  3. He does not care. If he cares he will take extreme action. He will find a way and the money. Maybe some of our politicians should take a pay cut. And put the money into houseing and jobs and social services. Break the cycle of ignorance and try a healthy cycle of jobs and cleaning up this city and for those who truly want it be drug free to make their own effort too. Be accountable on both the helper and the receiver ends .

  4. The mayor looked like a deer caught in the headlights, he knew damn what was going on but managed to avoid facing it until now.
    As far as city hall Councillors, clueless individuals like Susan Myers who call a methadone clinic a “Meth Lab” can’t obviously have any worthwhile input or be of any help in matters like this one.
    It’s a dilly of a pickle and it will be interesting to see what this broke city can do to make it better, like the roads and infrastructure, they have let this slide for far too long.

  5. I for one, would like to know why the Mayor did not bring this issue to light immediately after being informed of it? Well it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that people realize how bad this problem is. What the documentary didn’t show, is that this problem affects every level of life in the Sault, not just the few areas that were targeted. These drugs, when tried once, either kill you or grab a hold of you and don’t let go. I would bet there are many first time users that end up at the hospital because of these opioids.
    Maybe the local lawyers should stop defending drug dealers.
    It’s time to get after the government to help with this crisis.

  6. Mr. Provenzano, you are doing a fine job and we support you.
    The community as a whole just spent a lot of effort and money supporting a pitch for the ferrochrome plant.
    The largest source of Employment in town, after the Government, is going through bankruptcy protection.
    The City under Mr. Provenzano did few very good things in so much needed areas, but they will never be a reason for a celebration.
    The community will solve nothing dumping a bucket of money over every “docudrama” on ctv.
    It pertains to the Health Professionals to bring forward a plan, then the city could implement it.
    Above all, drugs are a choice.
    Addiction is the collateral damage of drugs consumption and recovery is also a choice.
    No one in a position of authority can force an addict to enroll in a recovery treatment.
    I’m confident the authorities are aware of how many out of town addicts set foot in our community every week and are receiving all the support we can provide, free accommodation through housing assistance, health support and methadone for all those in need.
    Let’s evaluate what we have in our hands and proceed from there, because so far, free housing, free health services, money to provide your more essential needs, the basic the City can provide; proved to be not enough; but I couldn’t hear anyone offering an action plan.
    Do we know of any city in Canada or the USA where the opioid addiction crisis got solved?
    One issue for our community to take into consideration for the next election would be our pick of Councillors and let’s be honest, nothing is gonna change if we keep voting the same old people and intend to solve the problems with the solutions that have failed in the past.

    Go ahead Mr. Provenzano, we support you. You’re a young adult, a professional, born and raised in this community and I am confident you will gather all the necessary information and statistics to tackle this problem, once and forever, in the very end, because you love this Community as much as we do, even when we landed here no long ago, just to invest few dollars, start a business and make our contributions to the Community.

  7. Sad that with the access to waterways and railways that the “big shots” of the Sault still don’t see the need to allow for growth. People need WORK! Idle minds are troubled minds…..just saying

  8. If our Mayor knew about this problem in November then he had an obligation to bring this to the attention of the entire city council. There is an election coming up. Is this who we want to be heading up our city?

    • Again, release forms had been signed . Couldn’t be spoke about until after the documentary aired . You can ask Desiree herself : he was unaware of the actual statistics, even she stated it’s very hard to get the actual numbers

    • He knew about it obviously but if he says he knew about then he has to explain why he hasn’t done anything to help the crisis so instead he plays like he didn’t know it was that bad so he doesn’t have to answer to why he hasn’t done much about it. Politics at its finest.

    • I just hope since it’s the hot topic this week and everyone is all of a sudden so involved in a crisis that has been here for years now that they continue instead of doing what usually happens here and that is they forget about in a week or two because it’s not brought to there attention anymore or it’s not the hot topic.

    • Ash I mean the city as a whole while people like you and me can see the problem clear as day all around the majority of the population here refuses to care about what is happening here until this doc has forced everyone to talk about it and forced people to look at what is going on here. Most of them didn’t care last week and will go back to not caring next week because the tv didn’t tell them to. Sad but that’s how this city seems to go.

    • I honestly cannot wait to sit across from our mayor and ask some seriously hard questions. At the moment I’m fuming so passionately about all this I can barely formulate thoughts . Gunna sit down and write some stuff up by the end of the week. I had a very open conversation with him yesterday and have been invited to continue to talk to him about it .

    • I hate to say it Paul is right. For a little while it has everyone attention. But eventually over time only those effected and those that actually care will remain. But still it doesn’t mean we should give up either.the ones who do care. We need to group together and make this something that can’t be ignored. Just like any other social or ethical situation.

    • And it is true these kind of census stats don’t just exsist as a solid number .. the reports are based on what health care professional can release. There are so many that are not even accounted for it number variation can change in a month a week even a day

  9. If this was filmed in November, why has nothing been brought up in their meetings? It is only now that the Mayor has become aware of this problem? Was he not interviewed in Nov. also? He seems like he only heard of this problem on Sat, Feb 10th when the program was aired.

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