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Lethbridge harm-reduction advocate has 9 tickets dropped after city representatives fail to attend court

Click to play video: 'Tickets issued to Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society dropped' Tickets issued to Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society dropped
WATCH ABOVE: A total of nine tickets issued to Tim Slaney of the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society have been dismissed, after representation for the City of Lethbridge did not attend court. Danica Ferris reports. – Apr 14, 2021

A member of the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society (LOPS) has had nine tickets dismissed by a judge after city representatives failed to attend a pair of court dates.

The tickets were issued to him by the City of Lethbridge.

Read more: Pop-up overdose prevention site operators fined $300 by City of Lethbridge

Tim Slaney was first issued a $300 ticket on Sep. 28, 2020, for setting up a pop-up overdose prevention tent in Galt Gardens. The LOPS board member said between then and the end of November, he was handed eight more tickets, all of which have now been dismissed.

“Obviously when the city is coming with quite a bundle of tickets, you’re definitely worried for how it’s going to play out,” Slaney told Global News.

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“I was pretty worried about the process (and) the expenses, but what the city has done, really, is just kind of express a complete indifference towards the legal process.”

Read more: Lethbridge group sets up unsanctioned overdose prevention site in Galt Gardens

Slaney’s lawyer Miranda Hlady confirmed that all nine tickets were dismissed on Friday afternoon.

“I’m relieved to not have it hanging over my head,” Slaney said. “Ultimately, I’m kind of frustrated. I think it was an affair in pointlessness. I think it was political theatre.”

But the city said it was unaware of the decision.

“We were of the understanding that a constitutional challenge of the city bylaw was going to be undertaken, but we were not aware of this ruling,” a statement from the City of Lethbridge said on Wednesday.

“Through our initial investigation, it does not appear that notification was provided, and our outside legal counsel assures us had they been aware, they would have responded,” the statement said.

City officials confirmed that a formal request was submitted to the Lethbridge Courthouse on Wednesday morning, requesting that the tickets be reissued with new summons issued for Slaney.

The letter — provided to Global News — confirms that representatives from the city’s hired counsel did not attend court dates on March 26, 2021 or April 9, 2021, before the judge dismissed the charges for want of prosecution.

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Hlady told Global News on Wednesday afternoon that she has confirmed with the court that it would not be taking the steps requested by the city’s outside counsel in the letter, including the reissuing of the tickets.

Read more: Doctors, lawyers gather in Lethbridge to support harm-reduction services

Slaney said LOPS stopped setting up its bright orange pop-up tent at the end of November, but has since continued to provide services on the streets of Lethbridge.

“We had eventually reached a place where our volunteers were actually being assaulted by the protest group quite regularly, so it became a safety issue,” he said.

Slaney said the evaporation of backlash from both protesters and the city once the tent was taken down, shows that the real issue was rooted in visibility.

“The things we were doing, which were supposedly the motivation — giving out the harm-reduction supplies and so on — that continued unabated,” he said. “So I think there’s really no argument to be made that the city had an issue with what we were doing.

“The city had an issue with what we were doing being apparent to the community.”

LOPS delivered a presentation at a Lethbridge Police Commission meeting in the fall, and Slaney said his group made multiple requests to meet with members of city council, to no avail.

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“I think once the initial shock of us setting up was over, they really took a policy of trying to freeze us out and trying to dampen any conversation whatsoever,” he said.

“What we’ve seen in Lethbridge, over and over again, is there really seems to be a lot less concern over the problem of homelessness and the problem of the overdose crisis, as there is over the visibility of homelessness.”

Read more: Lethbridge Police Commission reviews data from first full month following closure of SCS

Wednesday’s statement from the City of Lethbridge said that along with outside counsel, the city is currently investigating the matter and collecting further information surrounding the judge’s ruling.

“We are disappointed in the outcome as this is an important issue to the city, and we will be discussing a number of options,” it said.

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