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Lethbridge city council approves town hall to hear concerns about drug crisis, needle debris

Lethbridge City Council approves of citizen town hall meeting to discuss drug crisis
WATCH: Councillor Blaine Hyggen brought forward two motions on Tuesday, both in relation to Lethbridge’s drug crisis and needle debris in the city. Danica Ferris reports.

Lethbridge Coun. Blaine Hyggen brought forward two motions at Tuesday’s council meeting, both dealing with the drug crisis and needle debris in the city.

With the first motion, Hyggen asked that his fellow councillors approve of hosting a citizen town hall meeting, where members of the public could have their voices heard and questions answered by a panel of experts.

“New solutions, that’s what we’re looking for,” said Hyggen.

“There will always be questions out there, and I just thought with a town hall meeting like this, so many people have the same question… Instead of us getting 300 calls, that person can ask the one question and all those people at that meeting could have that same answer.”

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Before council eventually voted in favour of Hyggen’s motion, there was a lengthy debate.

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READ MORE: Protests held for and against Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site

Some of his fellow councillors raised concerns that the meeting could get nasty, with emotions over the drug crisis already running high in the community.

“I don’t deny it. There may need to be security there,” said Hyggen.

Coun. Ryan Parker, who voted in favour of the motion, said that choosing the correct moderator for the meeting would be key to maintaining order.

“I think it’s important that the moderator, whoever it is, sets the ground rules to explain the decorum, what’s expected,” said Parker.

“We want to make sure that it’s an opportunity for people to feel safe, but more importantly, for people to become educated as well.”

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Parker also pointed out that it’s a chance for city council to learn more as well. City administration will be inviting Alberta Health Services, Health Canada, ARCHES Lethbridge, police, firefighters, EMS and addiction experts.

It was also resolved that Jason Luan, the associate minister of health and addictions, be invited to attend.

READ MORE: Debate over supervised consumption sites ramps up across Alberta

Hyggen also raised a notice of motion to be considered and potentially voted on by council at the Aug. 19 meeting.

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If passed, council would ask the province to direct ARCHES Lethbridge to prohibit the distribution of needles leaving the supervised consumption site.

Council would also ask that the province stop funding the Lethbridge site until the Alberta government’s review is complete.

Hyggen said that misinformation and a lack of education in the community regarding the site have been major problems.

“It’s not about, you know, shutting down the supervised consumption site,” said Hyggen. “It’s questions to be asked, answers to come in… because I’ll be very honest with you, it’s quite often that those individuals don’t understand, possibly, what the site is doing.”

City administration now has two weeks to organize the citizen town hall, with a date and venue to be announced at the Aug. 19 council meeting.