Angry at Edmonton city council’s decision over supervised injection services being concentrated north of the downtown core, supporters of Chinatown have planned a protest and march for this Saturday.
“One thing we are really, really, really upset about is whatever the consultation process they talk about, not even one Chinese involved,” said Barbara Fung of the Chinese Benevolent Association.
Edmonton city council voted 10-1 Tuesday to take the next step in the process for allowing supervised injection services and have a letter sent to Health Canada offering support.
The medically supervised safe injection services will be offered at four locations: Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services and the George Spady Society – which are all north of downtown near Edmonton’s Chinatown area. (Medically supervised safe injection services will also be offered at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, but only for patients.)
Fung said there’s considerable anger that the city’s Chinese community was not even aware council planned to discuss the letter until a few days before the public hearing, which began Monday.
“We, the Chinese community, have eight per cent of the population of Edmonton. I can’t see why we got ignored. That’s one thing we’re really upset about this important decision. It’s so important to the future of Chinatown,” Fung added.
WATCH ABOVE: Drug users could be one step closer to having more supports available to them in Edmonton. As Vinesh Pratap reported on Tuesday, city council is taking the next step towards supervised injection services.
They are upset with the closest of the four sites – the George Spady Centre – which is right on their doorstep. The group says it will hurt property values and drive away business. Fung fears the consequences.
“Break into somebody’s house, or catch a senior or something? Where are they going to get the money to buy the drugs? Because the government is not going to provide them the money for the drugs. Where are they going to get the money from?”
“That the city said ‘We’re going to beautify your Chinatown so we can attract more tourism.’ But on the other hand the decision they made is going to damage Chinatown.”
Supporters of safe injection argue the Edmonton proposal is different from the Insite program on Vancouver’s Lower East Side that has gained national attention due to problems.
“We’re not proposing to build any new bricks and mortar, no store fronts,” explained Elaine Hyshka, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta School of Public Health.
“All we’re doing is adding one additional service to existing agencies that are already serving this population.”
Earlier this year, a survey was conducted with residents and businesses within a four-block radius of three agencies that will be offering the services. While questions were raised about the close proximity of the sites, 74 per cent of the 1,869 respondents agreed with the proposed approach.
The march is set to begin at 11:00 a.m. at Canada Place and move on to City Hall.
— With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News