Injection booths are seen at Insite in Vancouver on May 6, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Panel to review impacts of safe injection sites in Alberta

It will look at crime rates, social order and property values, and not harm reduction or housing

An Alberta government-appointed panel to examine the social and economic impacts of safe consumption sites for drug users will not consider the health benefits of such sites or the social issues surrounding drug abuse.

“We’re trying to balance the system,” Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, said Monday.

“The existing government already has a wealth of information supporting the merits of supervised consumption sites. The community side of impact seems to be left out.”

But the New Democrat Opposition’s critic for mental health and addictions called it a rigged panel that will pave the way toward closing or moving such sites.

“The direction of Premier (Jason) Kenney and Minister Luan leads to unnecessary deaths, leads to bodies on the street,” said Heather Sweet from Lethbridge, where city council was to consider a proposal to defund the community’s safe consumption site Monday.

Luan said the panel will consider the impact of the sites on crime rates, social order, property values and business impacts. It will not look at harm reduction, establishing new sites, provincial funding or issues such as housing.

Committee vice-chair Geri Bemister-Williams, a university criminologist and former drug addict, said that won’t limit the report the panel is expected to deliver to cabinet by the end of the year.

“We don’t exclude or come to the table with assumptions. Right now it’s a blank slate and we’re here to gather facts,” she said.

Luan left little doubt as to the nature of the panel’s work.

“The focus of this panel is to assess the social and economic impact to the community and business, which has previously been left out.”

Luan said research on the effectiveness of safe injection sites already exists and will be delivered to cabinet along with the panel’s report. Considering the issue again would confer a “double benefit” on advocates for such sites, he said.

“We already acknowledge the evidence that supervised consumption contributes to harm reduction. We’re expanding the subject.”

Luan said he intends to release the panel’s report, which will be written after a series of yet-to-be announced public meetings this fall.

Sweet said the panel is stacked with advocates of an “abstinence-only” approach and doesn’t include anyone from supervised consumption services.

Issues such as housing have to be part of any drug policy review, she said. She pointed out the UCP government has placed housing support programs on hold.

“If these sites are closed, people will die in the back alley of these businesses. They’ll die in front of these businesses. These people have no place to go.”

RELATED: The chances of surviving an overdose may depend on where person lives, advocate says

A review of safe injection sites was a United Conservative Party election promise.

There are currently seven in Alberta — in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge — with proposals for ones in Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Calgary. Luan said services will continue to be provided at the existing centres for the time being.

Edmonton has four injection sites, three clustered in the downtown core. A business and community group filed a Federal Court lawsuit earlier this year in an attempt to quash their permits, arguing the sites put too great a strain on the community. A court rejected the application.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Alberta Justice Minister advocates UCP rural crime plan

Expanded property rights, more power to peace officers, demonetizing scrap mental part of UCP plan

Lacombe councillor pushes for 0% tax increase in 2020

City admin will present options at the next council meeting

Encore Under $100 Art Market supports Lacombe Arts Endowment Fund

Art Market coincides with Light Up the Night

City of Lacombe council highlights – Nov. 12,

The next scheduled council meetings is Nov. 25

VIDEO: Lacombe honours those who fought for freedom

Remembrance Day ceremony welcomes 100s to LMC

Premier vows to fight for oilpatch as drillers forecast almost no growth in 2020

The CAODC said it expects the Canadian drilling rig fleet to continue to shrink

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh meets Trudeau to discuss throne speech

Top ask was the immediate creation of a national universal Pharmacare program

Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met

Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday

Small group of Cherry fans protest his firing at Rogers HQ

One sign at the Toronto rally: ‘Rogers cancels Don, we cancel Rogers’

Ideas for Alberta independence would increase costs, Nenshi says

Province has formed panel to examine how to get what a ‘fairer deal’ from Confederation

Alberta harvest a ‘growing crisis’: MP Blaine Calkins

Alberta Conservative MP’s resolve to assist farmers struggling with harvest

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Most Read