The debate over supervised injection sites in Edmonton has taken another step – with local Members of Parliament jumping in.
On Monday, the Community and Public Services Committee will be discussing a report that shows 74 per cent of 1,869 survey respondents agree with the city’s proposed approach. That proposal would see supervised injection sites at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, the George Spady Society and the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
The report was moved up in city council’s schedule to accelerate the process to open the sites; the mayor and police chief would be required to write letters of opinion to the federal government, which would then grant an exemption for a site to be opened.
Warren Champion, a board member for the Central McDougall Community League, said he is concerned about the sites being concentrated in one part of the city.
“Why don’t you actually take these sites to where the people are actually doing the drugs, which means off of Whyte Avenue, which means the West End, and you find a way to actually address the people who live in the River Valley?” he said.
“What you do to the communities when you take all of those types of services and you put them in a very concentrated area… I don’t think anybody wants to live next to an injection site.”
Champion said he is concerned about how the sites will affect the quality of life of residents in the area. He also expressed concerns about the consultation done by the city, saying there were none. However, a report going to committee Monday says there were six open houses, an online questionnaire, meetings with community leagues and door knocking around each of the agencies where the service will be provided.
Concerns are making their way to the federal level; Edmonton Griesbach Conservative MP Kerry Diotte said he has been in touch with worried constituents.
“These people are coming to me. They’re at their wit’s end they have not been heard,” he said.
“People don’t feel they are consulted. That’s frustrating people.”
However, Diotte is under fire himself. In a radio interview, he referred to supervised injection sites as “shooting galleries.”
That comment is drawing the ire of city councillors; Ward 5 Councillor Michael Oshry said he found the comment “offensive.”
“At the end of the day, everyone should be working for what’s best for the people that live in those areas of the city, including in Diotte’s riding. These are constituents of his and I would think that he would be doing what he can to support them,” he said.
Oshry also said Diotte’s comments were not a positive contribution to the conversation.
“Those kinds of comments are fearmongering and trying to rile up neighbours for reasons I don’t know why. But when you look at the evidence, this is the right thing to do. It’s a more effective way of dealing with this medical problem,” he said.
Oshry said the community consultation will be discussed at Monday’s meeting.
-with files from Caley Ramsay