Court hearing on Chinatown’s request to close Edmonton supervised consumption sites

WATCH ABOVE: Some downtown Edmonton residents were in court on Monday to complain they were never properly consulted about supervised consumption sites in the city. Fletcher Kent reports.

The location of supervised consumption sites in Edmonton’s inner city was before the federal courts on Monday. The Chinatown and Area Business Association wants to see three of the city’s four sites closed, and filed an injunction in October 2017.

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

There is a total of four supervised consumption sites in the city and Edmonton’s Chinatown area sits in the middle of three of them: Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services and the George Spady Society. The other site is a few blocks north, inside the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

WATCH BELOW: The Chinatown and Area Business Association’s battle against Edmonton’s supervised consumption sites moves to the courtroom on Monday.

Edmonton safe injection sites court case
Edmonton safe injection sites court case

The Chinatown association is challenging the federal minister of health’s approval of the sites. A judicial review at the Federal Court of Canada took place Monday in downtown Edmonton.

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“Our contention is that it is very unfair to have three drug injection sites in the proximity of six blocks,” said Holly Mah with the association. “There has been defecation, needles, vandalism and graffiti.

“What community can sustain that kind of burden?”

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The group said it is not opposed to any one of the sites on its own, but the cluster of three sites has led to increased crime, disorder and vandalism. The business association is arguing Health Canada’s decision to allow the sites was unreasonable, and that neighbours weren’t properly consulted. Any discussions came too late and weren’t in Chinese, they said.

In his questions to one lawyer Monday, the judge indicated at first glance, the association may have a point.

“It smacks of pro forma, going through the motions. ‘We’re going to meet with you but we’ve already made up our minds,'” the Hon. Richard Mosley said.

Other lawyers said Ottawa was never obligated to consult, and that the business association doesn’t have standing.

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.

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The legal team representing the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition fear — if the business association is successful in court — it could create new barriers to supervised consumption services, which could infringe upon the charter rights of people who use drugs.

“While this is a decision relating to the Edmonton sites, it does have the capacity to impact supervised consumption services across the country,” Canadian Drug Policy Coalition lawyer Caitlin Shane explained.

For those who run the sites, the prospect of shutting down any of them is scary.

“Supervised consumption services are critical in the face of our current overdose epidemic that we have going on. We absolutely need to be saving people’s lives,” Marliss Taylor with Street Works said.

READ MORE: Overwhelming demand at Edmonton supervised consumption sites in first 6 months

Statistics showed there have been 932 unique visitors, with a total of 22,316 visits to the four sites as of Nov. 18. During that period, the data suggested staff were able to intervene on 252 overdoses that were reversed.

No decision was made in court on Monday. The judge reserved his decision for January.

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News and Scott Johnston, 630 CHED.

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