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Saskatoon Catholic school board share injection site concerns

Saskatoon Catholic school board share injection site concerns
Members of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Board trustee Wayne Stus said he was concerned how close the injection site was to St. Mary's Education Centre. . Nathaniel Dove

Greater Saskatoon Catholic School board trustee Wayne Stus told the governance and priority committee that the board was concerned with the upcoming supervised drug consumption site on 20th Street West.

He said the board was concerned with the proximity to St. Mary’s Wellness and Education Centre, St. Paul’s Hospital and seniors residences in the area. He also said the board believed that AIDS Saskatoon, which will run the site, ignored their concerns when it was brought up in meetings.

“We have the impression that these meetings and consultations really had no effect on the planning,” he said.

READ MORE: Saskatoon supervised consumption site opening pushed back

“I think the prospect of the site coming into the community raised lots of questions,” Greg Chatlain, director of education for the school board, said.

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“Our school, the St. Mary’s Wellness and Education Centre is located very close [to the site] and we understand that many of the folks using the site would be walking through the community.”

Mayor Charlie Clark clarified that the decision to approve the supervised injection site was made by the federal government.

“The city did not have approval jurisdiction over where the location was and so we’re in a situation where we want to be partners to figure out how it has the least impact on the students of St. Mary’s [Wellness and Education Centre] and teachers and staff [and] on residents living in the area,” he said after the meeting.

READ MORE: Additional 8 Saskatoon police officers approved during city budget talks

Clark said the process of approving injection sites should include the cities and communities in which the sites are to be located.

“Whatever decisions are made federally and provincially, they land on the feet and the streets of mayors and communities and the residents who live in those communities.”

Clark pointed out that city council had approved the funds for police to hire eight new officers to patrol the area around the site. He also expressed his frustration with the provincial government when asked about a decision not to provide any financial assistance for the new officers.

“In my view this is not a local concern. This is a situation, whereas a community, we’re struggling with a crisis of mental health and additions. The city does not have jurisdiction over mental health and addictions,” he said.

READ MORE: Sask. government won’t give extra money for consumption site policing: minister

“We need to have strong partners and active conversations about how to build the best responses possible. It’s not up to the city alone.”

Chatlain said the discussion had given him “a strong measure of understanding” but said, “there’s more to go.”

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AIDS Saskatoon executive director Jason Mercredi said after the meeting that his organization had twice met with the school board in the past year and listened to their concerns. He said AIDS Saskatoon has been diligently working on the issue.

“Actually today we have secured funding from the Elton John AIDS Foundation and we have subcontracted the Okihtchitawak Patrol Group,” he said, mentioning a local volunteer community safety group.

He said the funding from the Elton John AIDS Foundation was in the area of $78,000 and will go towards naloxone training and towards payment for the patrol group.

He said the Okihtchitawak will conduct sweep the area for needles every day for 35 hours a week, starting in January. He added that AIDS Saskatoon staff already sweep the area every school day morning.