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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Synchronized Skating National Qualifying Event hosted in Red Deer Alberta Jan. 25th-26th

The 2020 Mountain Regional Synchronized Skating Championships are part of the National qualifying system

The Stettler ATOM female team will be having a Hockey Fights Hunger Food Drive Feb. 8th

Drop off locations will include Canadian Tire, No Frills and Sobeys from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

County council approves “challenging budget”

Provincial government cuts affect County’s revenue sources

Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters has plenty of events lined up for the first part of 2020

January is Mentoring Month across Canada and throughout North America

VIDEO: WHO says China virus not global health emergency

The decision came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities on Thursday

Former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse in B.C. granted day parole

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

Alberta privacy watchdog investigates ID scans at liquor stores

Alcanna Ltd., based in Edmonton, runs Liquor Depot, Wine and Beyond and Nova Cannabis stores

Survey finds support among Canadians for broader assisted-dying law

The survey was conducted Jan. 17 to 21 among 1,552 Canadians eligible to vote

New nasal spray launched in Canada to combat hypoglycemic shock in diabetics

Baqsimi is a nasal spray contains three milligrams of glucagon

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Alberta premier wants federal government to do more about opioid imports

Jason Kenney says Canada should find ways to cut down on drugs being smuggled into the country

Most Read