A spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service confirmed to Global News on Friday that multiple bodies have been discovered in the city’s core but added that the deaths are not believed to be criminal.
Alberta Health Services later confirmed to Global News that three bodies were discovered.
The health authority said paramedics were called to the scene and tried to resuscitate the people, all of whom were believed to be going through cardiac arrest, but they were declared dead at the scene.
AHS did not provide further details about what may have triggered the medical episodes, but an Alberta government statement released Saturday said the three people died of an “apparent overdose.”
“Alberta’s government is currently engaging with stakeholders, including the Edmonton police department,” said Justin Marshall, press secretary to the associate minister of mental health and addictions.
While Global News has not confirmed the cause of the deaths, harm-reduction advocate Dr. Petra Schulz said she suspects the fatalities were from a tainted drug supply and could have been avoided had the Boyle Street Community Services supervised consumption site still been open.
“They died not far from the site that would have opened after the convention centre closed,” Schulz said.
“Even if they weren’t using there before, their lives could have been saved if they would have had access to a consumption site. There would have been staff there trained, health-care staff, who can respond.
“We are really playing Russian roulette with people’s lives by not making sure they stay safe with this dangerous toxic drug supply that we’re dealing with at the moment. ”
The Boyle Street consumption site was officially shut down in April after its services were moved to the Edmonton Convention Centre in October 2020.
Prior to the fall of 2020, supervised consumption services were offered at three sites in central Edmonton.
When Boyle Street shifted services to the convention centre in October, the George Spady Centre began operating 24 hours a day, which will continue with the closure of the Tipinawâw shelter.
While service capacity at the George Spady Centre has been increased, overall capacity in Edmonton will be reduced.
Marshall said there has been no reduction in funding for supervised consumption services in the Edmonton zone.
“At the same time, Alberta’s government increased the booth capacity at the George Spady Centre, across the street from Boyle Street’s facility. We also turned this into a 24-7 operation,” Marshall said.
“We are engaged with the Boyle Street society about potentially operating overdose prevention services in an underserviced area of Edmonton.”
Global News received a tip on Friday about the three deaths near EPS Headquarters in the area of 103 Avenue and 96 Street.
Video of the scene captured by the Global One News Helicopter showed multiple police vehicles stationed by an inner-city park.
— With files from Global News online supervisor Caley Ramsay and online journalist Slav Kornik