May 25th, 2024

Harm-reduction efforts fill important role, too

By Lethbridge Herald on October 7, 2020.

Jason Laurendeau, Caroline Hodes and Dustin Fox
In the middle of multiple pandemics (COVID-19, an opioid crisis, and ongoing systemic racism in policing), it has come to our attention that the publisher and advertising manager for The Herald has made the decision to wade into a complex issue such as supporting drug users with an oversimplified narrative that invokes what is referred to as an “illegal É shoot-up tent” and foreign-funding of a grassroots initiative. Instead of pointing to what author Brian Hancock refers to as facts, these assertions draw very selectively on data from the AHS-operated overdose prevention site and the now-closed Supervised Consumption Site (SCS).
This is a complex issue, one worthy of thoughtful, sustained, reasoned discussion and debate. As such, it is worth looking carefully at the analyses that experts have done, including those that conclude that unsanctioned overdose prevention sites in Toronto and elsewhere are “safe sanctuaries” for the most vulnerable citizens, those most likely to experience police harassment, racist vitriol and stigma. Sadly, Hancock has oversimplified the issue, vilified those both doing the frontline work and supporting it, and has erroneously suggested that tax dollars are supporting an initiative that is, instead, the work of those fighting to strengthen public health policy in their local communities and more broadly.
By his own admission, Hancock wants what he refers to as an “attention-seeking stunt” to be “shut down” and to have “people arrested.” He frames this initiative as a nefarious volunteer undertaking designed not to save lives but one operating in the interests of a vague “something else going on” that constitutes “another black eye for the taxpaying residents of Lethbridge.” This, despite it not being a tax-supported initiative. On the contrary, the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society was recently fined $300 for a bylaw infraction associated with their pop-up facility.
The closing of the busiest supervised consumption site on the continent took place as part of a broader Alberta government project to defund harm-reduction measures and instead invest in treatment and rehabilitation. While treatment and rehabilitation programs are laudable, so, too, are harm-reduction measures, which, quite literally, keep people alive. The suggestion that it is sufficient to go from a perpetually busy supervised consumption site with 13 injection booths and two inhalation rooms to a mobile site with only two injection booths and no inhalation room simply does not hold water. That the mobile unit isn’t being used to capacity is evidence that we are not meeting the needs of local drug users. It is a clear indication that those users who were previously being supported by the SCS do not feel supported by the mobile unit and are instead consuming in less safe and supported ways.
While it may be the case that the city “has experienced a 36 per cent decrease in opioid-related EMS responses,” this does not suggest that there are fewer users. Instead, it suggests that fewer of them are consuming in a safe space where someone is well equipped to call for help. Hancock’s assertion that there has been a “modest decrease in drug and alcohol overdose deaths” since the closing of the SCS is based on a paucity of data — the SCS has been closed less than a month. What all of this points to is that more users are consuming in less visible and supported spaces.
People are in need of help. Like many people who are misinformed about the notion of harm reduction, Mr. Hancock oversimplifies the issue and perpetuates harmful assumptions about people who most need understanding and empathy. This short-sighted attitude toward people suffering with addiction issues echoes that old tone of dismissal; when dealing with the contemporary crises, we cannot simply say “enough is enough.”
Hancock’s call to criminalize those who would see our most vulnerable better supported stands to relegate some members of the Lethbridge community to premature death. We ask readers to consider if Hancock’s Lethbridge, a place where people are denied basic medical services on the basis of racist and ableist assumptions, is where they want to live.
Jason Laurendeau is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge. Caroline Hodes is Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Lethbridge. Dustin Fox is a University of Lethbridge alumnus and is studying Canadian common law and Indigenous legal orders at the University of Victoria.

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It would appear that the three of you, don’t believe in freedom of the press and that others who express an opinion different than your own, are therefore automatically wrong. I have a nephew who is a professor in B.C., and he is always ranting that anyone who drives a car is less than human. Apparently, we should all ride bicycles made of fairy wishes. What are you people teaching our young people? I am totally in support of helping these drug addicts turn their lives around but I never will support people breaking our laws. The $300.00 fine was issued after Brian Hancock wrote his letter and at the time, the police were “looking” into the issue. It was also reported, at least suggested, that ARCHES were inflating the number of clients using the now defunct SCS. I try to not make comments in here now because of the trolls and extreme right wingers but your letter disturbed me on several levels. By the way, I have no association with Brian Hancock nor do I have any idea about his background.

Dennis Bremner

You say Mr Hancock selectively drew data on things you obviously do not like. Then immediately site the Lethbridge SCS as the “busiest SCS on the continent using the selective data that he accuses Mr Hancock of using? I always find it interesting the letters that appear to have the least clue on what is going on, come from Professors in the U of L which I must admit, I find amusing because the concept is obviously to impress us with credentials because its sure not wisdom reining those halls.
The generally accepted premise is you must allow an addict to reach rock bottom, but the selective minnions that understand little but Pearly Gate Entrance tickets do absolutely everything they can to prevent rock bottom occuring.
The facts are, and these are supposed SCS facts, that 1664 users registered with the SCS. Only 130 used the facility. So like every other bleeding heart, when an addict dies, its heralded as a life lost that could have been saved by the SCS! Yet, the SCS of FIX ROOM, failed to identify who the addicts were that died. Were they SCS clients, my bet YES. Why, because while you have been cloistered in Lethbridge I was out in the real world. A world where the SCS or FIX Rooms of the 60s, and Consumption rooms of the 80s were used for experimentation. They also used it to prove a new supply was okay for the DEALER. Something none of these Academic Whiz Kids wish to address.
So the people that were actually at the highest risk were addicts that used the SCS, because they were the ones that tended to experiment with concoctions of drugs. The same can be said about our FIX room here in the Lethbridge. 1664 addicts, 1534 never used the facility yet we never had bodies laying around Lethbridge, why, its rather simple and obviously escapes the houses of great knowledge! When you remove death from the table, addicts risk more. When addicts have death as a possibility they exhibit small amounts of restraint to ensure they “do not wake up dead”.
So the discussion you would like to have is missing huge amounts of data and none of it supports your side or your foolish approach. Its simplistic at best. Lets all set up orange tents. Lets set 20 of them up, now Whiz Kid, which one is actually selling drugs to the addicts? Do you think the Lethbridge police have loads of time to cater to your ill thought out system? I don’t think so!

Last edited 3 years ago by Dennis Bremner

I think everyone having the same data/ FACTS on the same page would go along way to forming an adult debate, until then it seems like amateur hour. And as been said,a person may as well go to a trump rally ,as at least there are fact checkers.
In the mean time, it alarms me that should these letters be in a currant book;the professors would be in chapter one and Doug and Dennis would conclude in the final chapter.

Dennis Bremner

The collective U of L Brain Trust said : “Hancock’s call to criminalize those who would see our most vulnerable better supported stands to relegate some members of the Lethbridge community to premature death.”
The alternative? We leave people to wander aimlessly in a convulsive paranoid state who have no contact with reality other than when inbetween hits? The alternative? We provide stop gap measures in an effort to “feel good about ourselves” and in doing so remove the “rock bottom” that the greater minds (whomever they are) insist an addict must reach. So they never feel the need to rehab?
The alternative? We mix true homeless, with addicts who spend upward of $2500-$3000 a month to support their habit. We confuse the “right to have the addict decide when he should rehab, with a person who we then insist suffers from FASD and Drug Addiction and has the intellect of a toaster and the Socialist Bastion U of L insist we should wait for this toaster to make his own decision to rehab?
The alternative? Well we can do as Spearman insists and bunch everyone together and call them homeless and marginalized! Why? So we can blur the lines between the true homeless and marginalized who are afraid to use the Soup Kitchen because they will be beaten up by this cities imported Meth Crazed Addicts?
The alternative? Rely on the wisdom of supposed book knowledge U of L profs who have very little real experience and support a system where the term marginalized and homeless is a catchall that covers everyone, because after all, we do not want to leave anyone out, so we leave EVERYONE out! Why, total stupidity! Professionals that should be able to tell the difference between a bottle collector, down in his luck homeless person and, a thieving drug addict working the residents for anything he can steal are the same in that bastion of Socialism called the U of L
The alternative? When I say, SCSs create experimentation within the addict world, the Bastion, suggests their is no proof of that. Of course there isn’t, if you do not study it, there is no report, if there is no report there is no proof. So don’t study what is widely known and seen, because it interferes with the systems ability to milk Taxpayer money on couselling the toaster?
The alternative? I am always amused by those that say incarceration is not the answer, why? They need the addict to be freezing on the streets, sleeping in our parks, and barely surviving, otherwise….you lose the ability to marginalize the people who have a brain and are insisting you have no idea what you are doing, NONE!

Dennis Bremner
It appears the Socialist University of Lethbridge is behind the times


another ignorant referencing of “socialist” as the great evil. clearly without any understanding of what socialism is; and, clearly no understanding of the rot and evil and sham and utter ruination that is capitalism.
classic confusion of socialism – which exists to varying degrees in some countries…all of which are democracies, mind you – and totalitarianism, which exists to varying degrees in almost all countries, and which threatens democracies everywhere, including canada. might one acknowledge that you can have a more equal society that is fully democratic, or does one see fox news as the sole arbiter of truth?