City councillor Blaine Hyggen has set his motion in writing Thursday to halt funding to Lethbridge’s Supervised Consumption Site (SCS), pending the provincial review.
In his motion, Hyggen is also asking for needle distribution outside of the facility to be stopped.
The finalized motion, which has also been signed by fellow councillors Joe Mauro and Ryan Parker, will be presented at the upcoming city council meeting on Aug. 19.
“I brought it forward just in light of some of the concerns that are still in the community,” Hyggen said.
“We know there’s a review going on right now, and we’re thinking that maybe we should wait for this review to be complete, but it’s gotten so bad that I thought something needed to be done now.”
It’s a highly controversial topic that has been making headlines in Lethbridge since the SCS opened its doors in February 2018, and Hyggen said it’s about time something was done to help the many citizens affected in the city.
“Problems have stemmed from over a year ago when I first brought forward a similar resolution as far as the needles going off the facility, and the debris out in the community.”
WATCH: (July 5, 2019) Lethbridge business owner voices concern over supervised consumption site
Hyggen said he’s been fielding complaints for more than a year from local business owners affected by the site and residents worried about crime increases in the area.
He said that while he’s pro-harm reduction, something must be done to serve the greater concerns in the community, and so far, the current system isn’t cutting it.
Hyggen added that he’s even reached out to ARCHES to talk about his motion, and gain more information on the subject but has yet to get a response.
“I had a few questions that I wanted to ask in order to get all of the information that I thought was important, and I have not heard back yet,” said Hyggen.
“I think it’s important to have all of the facts and to have a better understanding. We can agree to disagree, but we need to have a better understanding of what’s happening in the community and of what we could possibly do to fix what’s happening.”
On Saturday, Arches director of communications, Jill Manning, took to Facebook to voice her concerns on the issue, stating the organization employs 174 taxpayers that would soon be put out of work should the motion be passed.
“Those are 174 people whose livelihood and families are deeply affected by these conversations. Those are 174 of your own tax-paying, voting constituents who are contributing citizens of this community,” Manning wrote.
“[They] have in many cases moved to, or remained in, Lethbridge specifically for the purposes of working in a field they are passionate about, at a world-renowned health care facility that allows them to give back via the completion of meaningful (although sometimes very difficult) work.”
In response to the open letter, Hyggen said the jobs already lost during the growing crisis should also be considered as a factor.
“I would also like to ask what happens to multitude of jobs that are being lost. All the businesses closing down after 50 years of being open, businesses leaving the community, and layoffs happening because of those that are concerned for their safety and not wanting to work throughout that neighbourhood,” he said.
“So there are a lot more concerns as far as jobs out there.”
Hyggen also notes the implementation of this site was not transparent, adding the previous government lacked communication with city officials — something he said goes against mandates set by the federal government and contributed to the issues caused by the SCS.
Megan Williamson, director of programs with ARCHES, said the SCS is just one piece of the harm reduction services offered in the city, and if that was to disappear due to a lack of funding, it could cause more harm than good.
“My initial response to the motion is one of concern,” Williamson said.
“It will cause more divisiveness in a time where the community needs to come together to find a solution.”
Lethbridge City Council is set to vote on the mandate Aug. 19, and until then, workers with ARCHES are taking to social media to urge members of council to think carefully before casting their votes.
“I understand the concerns of our surrounding businesses. An exhaustive amount of energy and discussion has been devoted to the effects that the SCS has had on their bottom line, the futures of their businesses, and the emotional and financial well-being of their staff,” Manning said.
“For those members of council that have heretofore remained unswayed by research, data, best practice, or humanitarian arguments: I would ask that at least this same level of consideration be provided to ARCHES’ valued employees, and to the 174 local families being affected by the decision you are making on August 19, 2019.”
WATCH: (May 21, 2019) Usage numbers remain high at Lethbridge supervised consumption site