Pubdate: Tue, 02 May 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Page: A1


'Already, the drug dealers, they own the place. It will only get
worse,' says resident

Tensions were running high at city hall Monday with more than two
dozen community members begging city council not to endorse three
supervised injection sites for drug users in their area.

"Already, the drug dealers, they own the place. It will only get
worse. How is that healthy for anyone?" said McCauley resident Geo
Fiddler, showing council a photo-montage of used needles and homeless
people in the area.

"It's bad enough in Chinatown. You add this in, it's going to make it
worse," said Mei Hung, vice-chairperson of the Chinese Benevolent

The three sites span Chinatown - drug dealers and addicts will
constantly move back and forth between them, Hung said, urging council
to support only one site so police can keep a better eye out for drug
dealers preying on vulnerable people in the area. "Safety is a huge
concern for our community."

Because of the volume of public speakers, council postponed its vote
until Tuesday. It's being asked to send a letter of support to the
federal government to secure an exemption to the Criminal Code.

The debate was planned for June, but provincial officials asked
Edmonton to expedite the process. It would be funded as a health service.

Residents and business leaders said supervised injection sites are
needed but shouldn't be concentrated in two inner-city neighbourhoods.
They're needed along Stony Plain Road, Whyte Avenue and Fort Road,
they said, calling for council to show greater respect.

"I care about the person who was killed in my back lane last year,"
said Gordon Stamp, adding the people who own homes there are forced by
fear to stay inside every evening.

"There's more than 200 neighbourhoods in Edmonton and we can't find
any other than these two to host these sites?" resident John Kolkman

Kolkman is a past president of Boyle McCauley Health Centre but still
doesn't support the pitch. "The focus should be on detox and
treatment," he said.

"We're just saying, 'You're already Downtown Eastside. You just are,'"
resident Rob Stack said. "I'm already at the point of giving up on the

Organizers propose three community-based sites at Boyle McCauley
Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services and the George Spady
Society, plus one at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for admitted
patients only.

That's because it's essential to embed the service within an existing
health and support facility and no single facility in the inner city
has the capacity to host the service on its own, organizer Elaine
Hyshka said. Two will be open during the day while the George Spady
will be open evenings and weekends. It also has detox beds.

It's not a silver bullet that will fix the fentanyl crisis, said
Gloria Keays, provincial medical officer of health. But it's one
solution to keep people alive long enough to get the support and
addiction treatment they need.

Fentanyl is now mixed into many street drugs and one person dies every
day in Alberta, according to Alberta Health Services. This part of
Edmonton has been a hot spot for overdose-related emergency calls.

When council reconvenes Tuesday, Coun. Andrew Knack said he'll ask
whether a facility is also needed on Stony Plain Road and Whyte Avenue.
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