October 22nd, 2020

Why mimic Vancouver’s unsuccessful plan?

By Letter to the Editor on December 12, 2019.

The Vancouver downtown east side (DES) had the first supervised injection site in North America, opening in 2003, and 11 years later Canada was hit with the opioid crisis. Overdose deaths in B.C. rose 725 per cent from 2003-2018, even though the site/social programs were in place for many years. In 2019 the Vancouver CHA saw the highest rate of ODs at 208, despite extensive harm-reduction measures.

The Vancouver greater DES population is around 19,000 with 260 social/housing programs costing $360 million per year. Annual EMS costs in Vancouver to respond to ODs are $500,000 and police responses involving mental-health issues are $9 million per year.

Costs per individual: Untreated addicts’ costs to society, including crime, judicial costs, health care – at least $45,000 per year, but a 2016 study found that 107 chronic offenders incur public service costs of $247,000 per person per year.

A separate paper released by Dr. Julian Somers of SFU in 2016 found chronic offenders with the highest use of public services cost more than $5 million per year, with no meaningful signs of improvement. It suggests about 300 people need targeted, extensive supports to escape the revolving door.

These are only a few of many examples of the crisis in Vancouver, using similar programs yet we are making the same mistakes.

The City of Vancouver states the overdose death rate in the city has increased every year since 2014. Crime continues to rise along with homelessness, the number of addicts and costs to support all of the services.

Recently they have realized it is not working!

Sept. 15, the Vancouver mayor called on federal leaders to act on the overdose crisis, and wants to allow substance users access to pharmaceutical-grade heroin.

Oct. 21, “Vancouver councillor calls for review of city’s drug strategy,” calling for more resources to tackle drug issues, more prevention and treatment, more money from other levels of government!

Our province, with the support of our city, is leading us down the same road of high costs with little results by enabling addicts.

Addicts need to be treated using effective treatment programs that have already been successful in Tennessee, yet they continue to ignore the biggest example of a program that is a failure right next to us!

So how big is your wallet? Are you ready to jump onto this perpetual gong show that will bleed us dry? Look at the costs with no results. Take the money used to enable addicts and get them into effective treatment programs!

Barry Ewing


Share this story:

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Citi Zen

Lethbridge Mayor and Council hold themselves in such high esteem that they think even though these programs have failed miserably in other cities, they can make it work here. They will never stoop so low as to learn from other’s mistakes.
If we stay on the present path, I predict that our city taxes will at least double over the next 10 years.
We really need a total new council and administration at City Hall, who can use some common sense solutions to turn this problem into something positive..

George McCrea

Information released yesterday on the Connecting our Community Lethbridge facebook page shows and astounding amount of growth in the non profit organization ARCHES

For Example: 2017 ARCHES showed a revenue stream of 364,284.00 with 6 full time and 8 part time employees
3 employees earned between 1 to 39,999.00
3 employees earned between 40,000 to 79,000

Fast forward to 2019 filing: ARCHES has a revenue stream of 5,331,666.00 MILLION with 79 full time employees and 98 part time employees
Full time compensation flows out as follows:

4 employees earn between 40,000 and 79,999.00 per year
5 employees earn between 80,000 and 119,999.00 per year
AND. 1 employee earns between 200,000 and 249,999.00 per year

Astonishing “growth” in a non profit over the course of 2 years in which time period the Supervised Consumption Site was opened under the direction of ARCHES.

We need their metrics provided as to how successful they have been in not only harm reduction but with the three other “pillars” which are used as the basis for these consumption sites to open. How many OD’s have been prevented, how many have been referred to treatment, how many have gone to treatment, how many have stayed clean.

All of this information is available at the following web site from CRA.



Under the direction of ARCHES
(formerly the Lethbridge HIV/HEP Society), what amount of the revenue is slated for HIV/HEP clients, and how are their needs being met since the opening of the SCS ?


Excellent information George McCrea . . . I wonder who is making the $200,000- $249.999? I can’t wait to get the information on that!

Vancouver is now looking at an 8% tax increase to pay for all the extra services!

Facts – Building all of these services and sites attract addicts –
From “Vancouver Homeless Count 2019”
3.9 Place of Residence Prior to Vancouver
“…..Table 13 shows where respondents were living before their arrival in Vancouver. Sixteen percent (16%) had been living elsewhere in Metro Vancouver; 31% elsewhere in British Columbia, 44% elsewhere in Canada outside of British Columbia, and 9% outside of Canada…….”
“….About half of Downtown Eastside residents who experience chronic homelessness and serious mental-health issues migrated to the neighbourhood from elsewhere – but despite the high concentration of services and supports in the area, they suffered significant personal decline…..”
“….”Our general sense is that approximately half of the population are long-term residents of the Downtown Eastside and the other half are transient,” …..”

Lethbridge has attracted people from outside the city as well. I have talked to people on the streets as far away as Thunder Bay, Ontario, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, but many are from the FN communities near Lethbridge, including Siksika and even the Blackfoot Nation in Montana.

Lethbridge doesn’t just have an addiction crisis, it has a FN homeless crisis that is caused from the problems that caused their addictions. And even the Vancouver DTES, although lower numbers has high numbers of FN homeless.

The survey also found 39 per cent of the homeless population identified as Indigenous, despite the 2016 census finding Indigenous people make up just 2.2 per cent of the overall population in Vancouver.

Many of the issues from crime, addictions and prositution in Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Lethbridge have high representations of First Nations as they organized the gangs grew!

The high costs of social programs, policing, fire/EMS, housing, related programs will only increase if we allow the SCS to continue to enable drug users to go there to do their illegal drugs and supply all of their paraphenalia for ‘free’ at the taxpayer’s expense. How many Naloxone kits have been given out at $100 per kit? How many thousand?

It is cheaper in the long run to treat these addicts and mentally ill effectively with proven programs, than to continue this cycle of addiction at the taxpayers expense and at the expense and trauma to businesses and residents.

This small group of people has cost this city dearly and there has been complete contempt towards those that have stood up against Council and the SCS. There has been little concern for those that have lost businesses, property or losses due to theft, along with accusations of faking evidence by the Mayor . . . it is time to shut this operation down!!!!


Hear hear. Facts instead of lies and pure liberal emotion! And this is only a small part of the story. BTW George, the $5.3mm was 2019 compensation/wages while revenues were $7.1mm of which only $70k was donations and the remaining, well, almost $7.1mm was from our 3 levels of government. Right – $1.0mm from the City of Lethbridge, $0.6mm directly from the federal govt and $4.9mm direct from our Alberta Govt. The remainder was mostly swaps of govt money from other “charities”. Mind you, Arches’ purpose is declared as supporting HIV and HepC sufferers, not drug addict clients or building an empire of semi-related services including security, protection, entertainment, housing, etc plus most importantly that employment of 177 staff that eats up $5.3mm of the $7.1 mm raised. Hows that for overhead! Who is the charity really for? Follow the money…

George McCrea

Thanks for digging a little deeper. Great info.




Also, to all the ignorant half wits in this thread, please look up the definition of confirmation bias


The opposite of failure is success. Explain to me how “saving” an addict time after time after time without any hope of them getting clean is success.


@ JaysonM . . . please do more research and do not stand on just the one article you stand on and no need to oppose by calling people names!

If you don’t get it that is has failed you really haven’t put much thought into it!
How many committed suicide because they never got treatment and found themselves in the state of hopelessness and couldn’t find a way out . . . you don’t see those figures in the stats!
How many died from been on the streets for so long that they have diseases from the addictions/homelessness. Many die of respiratory disease or HIV/HEP C and the new and growing threat is TB!
There are many deaths that have occurred due to addictions and they are not counted in the stats, not to mention the toll on the families that cringe everytime they hear a knock at the door or the phone rings to tell them their loved one is dead.
How many push it to the limits knowing or hoping Naloxone will bring them back if they overdose . . . i remember seeing in the news a young Lethbridge FN man bragging like it is a badge of honour how many times he has been revived from overdoses, it became a game to some.

Just because the study you quote shows how many thousand have been saved at the safe injection sites remember with effective treatment they wouldn’t be overdosing and that still in Alberta and BC 65-70% of fatal overdoses are where the person reside and not everyone uses the sites . . . so treating them not enabling, saves more lives !

It they were treated effectively they wouldn’t be on the streets, period. Will it stop all deaths? Of course not, but slowly with stop the ones that slowly kill themselves from the constant drug use and crimes committed that impact their lives or prostitution that is another lifestyle that will kill them, and dramatically reduce the numbers. There is proof it works and is being used in several US states at a fraction of the costs we pay to support enabling them!
Nothing you can say will ever convince me that treating them is better than allowing them to slowly kill themselves with drugs! Your study is flawed and fails to take into account many other variables and factors!
It is not a bias . . . it is reality!