Results from a UCP-appointed panel could soon determine the fate of Alberta’s seven supervised consumption sites.
On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney didn’t close the door on the idea of relocating some of the sites.
“It certainly is possible that at least some will be relocated,” Kenney said at a news conference, adding, “It’s never been our intention to shut all of the sites.”
Lethbridge reactions varied on the possibility of relocation, with the SCS just blocks from the city’s downtown core.
“Nobody wants a service like this in their area,” said Stacey Bourque, the executive director of ARCHES.
“It makes it really difficult, even relocation, we would face the same issues that we’re facing now.”
Lethbridge City Councillor Blaine Hyggen, who’s been outspoken on issues surrounding the SCS, said he was excited to hear that the site could be moved.
“I think the area where it’s at is not the correct place,” said Hyggen on Wednesday. “I don’t think there was enough community engagement prior to it being put there.”
But Bourque said the appropriate thought was put into the site’s location.
“It’s close to public transportation, it’s walking distance from most of the other social services in the downtown core that people, vulnerable people, access,” she said.
Kenney also pointed to an increase in crime and social disorder surrounding supervised consumption sites across the province, something Lethbridge has seen first hand.
“Whenever you concentrate a large number of marginalized people in an area, people see the issue a lot more easily and clearly,” said Bourque.
But despite divided opinions on how Lethbridge’s SCS should proceed, those with city council and ARCHES agreed on the biggest issue Lethbridge faces.
“It certainly would be more helpful to have more than just the harm-reduction pillar in the city of Lethbridge,” said Mayor Chris Spearman. “What we need is treatment and recovery.”
Bourque agreed that Lethbridge is severely lacking in services to support ARCHES’ harm-reduction goals.
“It’s a lack of all of those other pieces that are so important for us to be able to move people along that continuum of care,” she said.
Hyggen agreed that intox, detox and supportive housing resources are what Lethbridge needs most.
Kenney said Tuesday that he hopes the full report from the SCS review panel would be released in the next couple of weeks.