By Lethbridge Herald on July 10, 2018.
A resolution to stop needles from leaving the supervised consumption site was delayed for two weeks as Lethbridge City Council pushed off making a decision on it to their next regular meeting.
On Monday, Coun. Blaine Hyggen put forward the resolution, which was then subject to a vote to delay that passed six to three. Hyggen was joined by Coun. Joe Mauro and Coun. Ryan Parker, who also voted against the delay.
The resolution, which was an add-on to the agenda, calls for council to direct Arches to stop the distribution of needles leaving the SCS, and that needles being distributed be only used at the SCS.
Coun. Rob Miyashiro requested the delay due to a planned public meeting later in the evening addressing the opioid crisis and harm reduction efforts in the community.
“It seems premature for council to talk about one part of it and vote on a motion about one part of this issue, without hearing what the experts in the field have to say,” he said.
Hyggen reminded council that there had been an opportunity to specifically discuss the needle distribution program and resulting debris prior to last month’s Community Issues Committee meeting, and that the original intent of that meeting had been removed in favour of a more generalized discussion on the opioid crisis.
He added the event planned for Monday night was not specifically on the issue of the distribution program.
“For that reason, I think it’s a weaselly way out, to be honest with you,” he said. “Not having to raise your hands and support or not support the distribution of needles.”
Mayor Chris Spearman said the resolution did not meet with standard practices, and he would support a delay because of it.
“We received it at 1:29 p.m. today,” he said (The open portion of council meetings begin at 1:30 p.m.). “That doesn’t give council time to research the issue.”
Municipal Affairs has confirmed that municipalities do have the right to enact resolutions to restrict needle distribution in communities, but, cautioned that those resolutions could end up in court.
“We haven’t done the research on that,” Spearman said. “I think we need to postpone this and get additional information.”
Mauro said he would not support the delay.
“This is a resolution that is, if supported, would give a message and send an action for the distribution of needles by the (supervised) consumption site,” he said. “Which we have the right to do, and the right to vote on, as clearly stated in The Municipal Government Act.”
Parker called the needle debris issue the “number one issue” in the community, and said he was not in support of a delay.
“People have (stated) that decisively and quickly,” he said. “If not now, as the most important time, I don’t know when.”
Following the vote, Hyggen said he had been hoping to see some closure to the issue after previous council delays.
“A month ago we decided we were going to look into this, and we came to today,” he said.
“I still think we could have looked at it and acted on what we have in front of us.
“We need to act on this a lot quicker than what we are,” he said.
He said he visited an SCS in Vancouver and was told by multiple people Lethbridge should not be allowing needles offsite.
“I know it’s a different site than what it is here, but it’s still a supervised consumption site,” said Hyggen. “So there’s frustration there, for sure.
“We’ll keep seeing what we can do.”
The next regular meeting of council is scheduled for July 23.
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