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Court date set for Chinatown business association’s effort to close Edmonton safe injection sites

The supervised consumption site at Boyle Street Community Services (10116-105 Ave.) in downtown Edmonton, where people can carry out safe injection of drugs under medical supervision. March 22, 2018. .
The supervised consumption site at Boyle Street Community Services (10116-105 Ave.) in downtown Edmonton, where people can carry out safe injection of drugs under medical supervision. March 22, 2018. . Kendra Slugoski, Global News

The Chinatown and Area Business Association now has its day in court set as it battles to force the closure of the supervised consumption sites in Edmonton’s inner city.

A hearing has been set for Dec. 10 in federal court after an injunction was filed a year ago October.

READ MORE: Neighbours of Edmonton’s newest supervised consumption site hope it means fewer needles on street

Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton (AMSISE) is a coalition of community, medical, academic and public sector groups that created the model for the city’s four service sites.

Three of them — at Boyle McCauley Health Centre, which opened three weeks ago, Boyle Street Community Services and the George Spady Society, both of which opened in the spring — are in question. A fourth site, at the Royal Alex Hospital and only accessible to patients, is not in question.

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“We’re not able to comment on the details of the ongoing court proceedings. We look forward to presenting our case to court on Dec. 10,” AMSISE spokesman Elliott Tanti said Thursday in a prepared statement.

READ MORE: Staff at new Edmonton supervised consumption site surprised by demand

“I hope the court case ultimately fails,” said city councillor Scott McKeen.

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“We all have a duty of care to some really vulnerable, damaged, ill people who are using opioids to self medicate their psychological pain.”

RELATED: Edmonton accelerates plan to offer safe injection services in inner city

“My goal and my hope is, as we build permanent supportive housing facilities around the city, that we’ll be able to close one or two of these. That we’ll spread the services around the city and housing with safe consumption or harm reduction — that’s the real answer.”

McKeen said he’s optimistic that the direction given by city council to spread supportive housing throughout the city will pay off soon.

READ MORE: Supervised-injection service locations for drug users announced in Edmonton

“We know that there are vulnerable people across the river in Strathcona. We know there are vulnerable people in a number of areas in the city.

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“It was sort of like, ‘You’re going to do this in other areas? Yep,’ but we haven’t seen that happen. I’m a little frustrated by that.”

“The Boyle McCauley-Central McDougall area felt picked upon again: ‘Oh, you’re going to dump more on us.’

“It would have helped a lot to see safe consumption sites established in one or two other spots in the city to show — no, this is a duty of care issue to save people’s lives.”

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Lawyer Nate Whitling will be representing AMSISE.

“Given the importance of the free service provided by the sites to our community, we act for the sites pro bono,” the lawyer said via Twitter.

READ MORE: Edmonton MP weighs in on safe injection sites; city councillors fire back

The most recent statistics available (up to Nov. 18) on how the four sites have operated show that there have been 932 unique visitors to the service, with a total of 22,316 visits. In that time, staff were able to intervene on 252 overdoses that were reversed.

No one from the Chinatown and Area Business Association responded to an interview request.

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