Pubdate: Sat, 04 Feb 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Carrie Tait
Page: S2



Brian Thiessen chairs the Calgary Police Commission, the civilian
organization that oversees the city's police force. He joined the
board about a year and a half ago, as the number of deaths tied to
opioid overdoses was exploding in Alberta, he tells Carrie Tait. Mr.
Thiessen explained to The Globe and Mail why he supports
supervised-consumption sites and labelling the fentanyl issue a crisis

What do you think the CPS should do to address opioid

The Calgary Police Service and its chief Roger Chaffin have made a
point of referring to it as the fentanyl crisis. We should start
calling it a crisis, which is what it is. People are not aware of the
urgency of the problem. It sounds like a small thing but I think it is
important. The federal, provincial and municipal levels of government
all need to be involved and co-ordinate on the fentanyl crisis. I'd
like to see the provincial level of government dedicate resources to
the health-care industry, to emergency response, to fund [the overdose
antidote] naloxone and have naloxone distributed in a more
comprehensive manner.

How about locally?

I'd like the city to start talking about it with more of a sense of
urgency. One of the things I raised with city council is that they
should be thinking about some of the things Vancouver is doing.
Vancouver recently voted in a 0.5-per-cent property-tax increase to
fund supervised injection sites and is working with the province on
the homelessness issue, on housing and on treatment of addiction.
Those options should be on the table in Calgary. We need to treat
people who are suffering from addiction to fentanyl. When we elect to
not do those things, when we elect not to consider options such as
safe injection sites, we are effectively saying to the police
services, "This is your issue." Police services are not designed to
handle a major health crisis such as fentanyl addiction.

What is the commission asking CPS to do, even within those

We would like the force to focus energy on the issue, to advocate on
behalf of funding, to do everything they can to assist those that are
suffering from these addictions. [But] it is really not a police
service area. It is not within their mandate. They are not equipped to
handle this issue. It is a broad health-care issue and they are only a
small part of it. It would be naive to ask the service to just deal
with the issue. "You've got this much funding, go and deal with the
fentanyl crisis." They are putting a huge amount of resources [into
this], they have a drug unit, they are making arrests. If we're also
asking them to solve the demand issue, we're setting them up to fail.

Who is pushing to call street use of fentanyl crisis - the force or
the commission?

When we speak with the Calgary Police Service, [fentanyl] is a
fundamental concern of the service and the chief. They are subject
matter experts and when the chief told me it is a priority and a
crisis, I did my own research and he has convinced me. I think it is
important for the Calgary Police Commission to support the Calgary
Police Service when they are taking a stance on important issues like

Are you still working to persuade the force to support supervised

They have to look at it objectively as the enforcement agency and
whether they are effective. They understand there are members of city
council that won't be for it. I think it is very astute for the chief
not to be an advocate for supervised injection sites. We, as the
civilian oversight body, have a broader role that we can take. I think
it is more appropriate for the commission to advocate for supervised
injection sites than the chief. I don't think I need to convince the
chief about safe injection sites. He has always been open to good ideas.

- - This interview has been edited and condensed.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt