January 18th, 2021

‘Die-In’ marks closure of SCS

By Jensen, Randy on September 1, 2020.

Brady Gleeson, along with other demonstrators, takes part in a "die-in" Monday at city hall protesting the closure of the supervised consumption site. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


To mark International Overdose Awareness Day supporters of harm reduction held a “Die In” protest at Lethbridge City Hall and a candlelight vigil at the former supervised consumption site to draw attention to local overdose victims.

At the same time, protesters on the Piikani Nation held a memorial walk to remember those who have died of overdoses in their community, and called for more action to help prevent other deaths.

In Lethbridge the focus of the “Die In” was the final closure of the ARCHES-run supervised consumption site on Monday, with those coming out expressing their fears more people would die in the community now that the SCS was closed. About 100 harm-reduction advocates came out for the event.

Moms Stop the Harm, a group of mothers whose children are either addicted to drugs or have died from overdoses, helped organize the Die In protest and vigil.

“This is a very somber day for those who have lost people to addiction,” said Moms Stop the Harm representative Lori Hatfield, “or who have people who are struggling, and to those family members that don’t have that family member around anymore. My son lives with addiction. He is in recovery right now.”

“Addiction is a mental-health issue,” she stressed. “It is not a political issue. Even though he is in recovery now, this will be with him for the rest of his life. And it’s a fight he is going to have to fight every day. Relapse is part of recovery, and if services here are cut off and throughout the province it just makes people more vulnerable to overdoses if they relapse.”

Hatfield noted that on this day set aside internationally to raise awareness of overdose deaths the SCS in Lethbridge was being shut down by decisions made by the UCP government.

“They have used the platform of what happened at ARCHES as a reason to close it, but I think that has just been the scapegoat of their overall plan,” she said. “That’s my personal belief. They should have brought (outside) management immediately to take over when they discovered this. An investigation could have been done, but they did not need to shut down the service.”

Hatfield expressed her belief the new mobile overdose prevention site (OPS) would not be able to handle the volume needed in the community for harm-reduction services, leading to more overdose deaths in Lethbridge.

“Logistically the mobile site will not be able to take on the numbers that were accessing the supervised consumption site,” she stated. “The numbers were 600 to 800 visits a day at the SCS as opposed to the three chairs they have available at the mobile unit, of which they can only put two in at a time due to COVID.”

Another attendee at the Die In at city hall, Sam Mackey, said without ARCHES, and the support she received from the organization while fighting her addiction, she wouldn’t be alive today and wouldn’t be in recovery. She started coming to the organization when she was just 18 years old when she was a local addict living on the streets and eventually began working with the organization to help others like herself.

“We have a real epidemic here,” she said, speaking from experience. “People are really dying. This is what is happening.”

Mackey said she hoped the new OPS mobile unit would help save lives and that Lethbridge residents would be compassionate enough to look out for those experiencing overdoses to try to help when they can.

“It’s a bit of a terrifying thought,” she said when asked about meeting the harm-reduction needs of the community in light of the closure of the ARCHES SCS. “We have a lot of work ahead of us. Thankfully, we do have the OPS. They are having to do the best work they can, and I have no doubt they will do that. However, it’s kind of liking closing a hospital and leaving an ambulance.”

At Brocket, demonstrators took part in a memorial walk and signed a 75-foot banner demanding more action on local overdose deaths to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.

Diana Northpeigan lost her youngest son Rudy to an overdose in June, and has a daughter in treatment for addiction at the Bringing Home the Spirit Home detox centre in Standoff.

Northpeigan says her community’s government and its institutions are failing them.

“It broke me when it happened,” she said, speaking about her son’s death. “It’s going on 10 weeks now, but everyday it’s the why? What could I have done? Or how could I have prevented losing him? That’s why I got on board with the overdose awareness day here in Piikani, because there are not enough prevention measures to help us to save another life (in the community). In close proximity to my son’s death, we had three others back to back within a week. We had four deaths from overdoses, and they were probably all from the same drug dealer.”

Northpeigan says Piikani lacks qualified addictions experts, lacks services to help drug addicts looking for immediate treatment, and has too much cronyism in the local health-care system which puts relatives in jobs they are not qualified for.

“What I would like to see come out of this (action) today is our chief and council put qualified workers into those positions that are needed here on our reserve, and to have more compassionate workers who want to help to the best of their abilities,” she stated. “There are a lot of closed doors now because of COVID, but those doors were closed long before COVID as well. Only certain families were helped. What I am trying to do is open the doors for everybody; so we are all treated the same É We’re going to continue failing in Indian country because there is too much of, ‘There’s my relative. I am going to give them a job.’ Instead of hiring that lady nobody knows, and who knows what she is doing.”

Northpeigan hopes the message she and others were sending on International Overdose Awareness Day was getting through to the decision-makers.

“The hardest thing is to know that my daughter has come open about her drug use only after she lost her brother,” Northpeigan stated. “My son, I never knew he had the problem. But right now I have my daughter who is in detox at the Kainai healing centre. She is now on her way to go for treatment. But I couldn’t even get that help on my own reserve.”

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The Safe Consumption Site was a money pit that enabled users and generated more addicts as proven by the increased numbers. The number of fatal overdoses continued to rise after it opened, including this summer, with the site open 20 hours per day. I watched many young lives slowly being killed by enabling them, there brains rot and their bodies emaciate before they died! This is not ‘healthcare’, but torture and torture for the families that saw their loved ones slowly kill themselves with the governments blessing! This was an abomination before God! Can you image if the over $10 million would have been put into effective treatment programs how many lives would have saved? We should be celebrating the closure and the beginning of the end of this failure and new beginning of treatment with effecitve programs that WILL save lives and not generate more addicts! There were so many things wrong with this SCS!

They inflated numbers of users of the safe consumption sections by recounting people who returned multiple times a day . . . why?  . . .  possibly to get more funding, but we will never know, will we. There was zero respect for the business community, the citizens whose neighbourhoods were being pillaged to pay for the drugs or the taxpayer. Why should Lethbridge be the dumping grounds for the surrounding communities that banished their trouble makers and shipped them here? Wouldn’t it be nice if Lethbridge could banish the troublemakers as they do, but then we would be called racists! It is time these other communities took the responsibility of looking after their own people and stop the blame game! This gong-show ends here and now!!!

This had no oversight by AHS and isn’t it interesting that before the Alberta Government audit this March, they reported over 700 users to the site but after the government began its oversight, suddenly there were only 130 users per day.

You cannot tell me that Stacey Bourque was the only guilty party in the mis-appropriation of funds. There is still much more to come out in this saga of taxpayer’s monies being blown on a “party palace” that generated addicts instead of leading them to treatment. Every stat they stated needs to be forensically investigated and charges laid!

BC has blown billions on safe injection sites and the rippling affects since 2013, with no positive impact on the growth of fatal overdoses, number of addicts, the homeless addictions create and the crime, all have grown since 2013. That says it all, if it worked, there would be reductions.
In Alberta and BC, 70% of the fatal overdoses are where the persons reside. These sites do not help them. This poor people needed effective treatment programs in place for them to access, not sites and free opioids for them to continue to emaciate and slowly kill themselves. This is inhumane, unethical and makes a farce out of a ‘healthcare’ system that licenses and supports it!
In the greater Vancouver DTES alone, just a small part of Vancouver of with population of about 20,000, for years $360 million per year has been pumped into support and housing programs for the addicts, and that doesn’t include the millions for police and EMS responses and since 2013, numbers of fatal overdoses increased annually.

Imagine, seriously . . . think, where they would be at if all of that money would have been pumped into effective treatment programs. Now they are giving free opioids to addicts using vending machines that they can access their prescribed opioids by using a bio-metric palm scanner. Opioids were the reason why they started by first safe injection site 17 years ago, but now they think throwing more opioids at the problem will fix it? Are we all the stupid and braindead that we believe this is the answer?

We have been warned to expect the Liberals to get Health Canada to distribute these across Canada, at the taxpayers’ expense! Our country is being destroyed by governments that want to drug Canadians, weakening our country that is already in distress. Who will be paying the taxes with all of us doing to drugs?
When will you wake up? When you are paying 50% of your wages to pay for all the addicts, their drugs, all the support services, police and EMS responses . . . what will it take for you to realize that BC’s idea of safe injection sites are a failure, generating more addicts and homeless?

Effective treatment programs that focus on cause of the addiction is the answer!

There will be a war in Lethbridge if they open another SCS! People have had enough and tired of seeing their streets and neighbourhoods taken over by addicts and crime!
Effective treatment programs work and I have plenty of proof of programs in North America, (forget Europe, social issues in North America are not the same) forced treatment does work, using effective, proven programs with a 16-22% recidivism rate! That is a 78 – 84% success rate! AND without using safe consumption sites or all the programs that are needed to support the impacts! More money ends up in the treatment programs instead of all the social services, housing and increased policing these sites generate!

Wake up Lethbridge . . . we have paid a big enough price already!!! No more SCS sites!!!!