The debate continues around the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge as residents on both sides of the controversy held rallies ahead of a council meeting discussing the future of the site on Monday.
From one side of a barricade in front of city hall, cries of “shut it down” were heard.
On the other side: “Harm reduction works!”
Coun. Blaine Hyggen put forward a motion, co-sponsored by councillors Joe Mauro and Ryan Parker, asking city council to call on the province to prohibit needles from leaving the site and to stop funding it until the provincial review is complete.
One rally organizer said the motion is just the first step.
“The site has to be shut down,” said Lou Nate, a member of Lethbridge Citizens Alliance.
“Having the site is not helping the problem. If it was helping the problem, great, but it’s not helping the problem.”
Those supporting the site are arguing it might create a bigger problem if the site is shut down.
“I’m not sure what they’re planning on accomplishing by putting this motion forward because if the doors to the supervised consumption site close — they have 600 people coming through their doors to use their drugs there — they’re just going to have 600 people out on the streets using,” said Lori Hatfield, a member of Moms Stop the Harm.
Lethbridge’s facility opened last year and is one of the most used in the world. In April alone, the site saw an average of 673 visits a day.
But the site isn’t the solution, Nate said.
“We’re not helping them by giving them needles,” said Nate. “We could be helping with treatment. That’s what we should be doing.”
The motion stems from public concern about needle debris and crime. Businesses near the site have also said their livelihoods have taken a hit.
“We don’t disagree with them that it is a problem in Lethbridge, but it’s a problem for both sides,” said Hatfield. “It’s not about sides though — it’s about getting services in Lethbridge.
“It’s a situation where both sides have to come together because this way, nobody is going to win. Nobody.”
Councillors will debate the motion during Monday’s council meeting.