May 24th, 2024

Unsanctioned OPS attracts opposition

By Lethbridge Herald on September 28, 2020.

Residents voice their opposition to members of the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society next to a tent set up to serve as an unsanctioned supervised consumption site over the weekend at the Civic Centre track. Herald photo by Dale Woodard

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
As they headed into their second night of operation on Saturday, the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society met its first opposition.
The group, which formed three weeks after the province stopped funding for ARCHES, set up a tent that acted as an unsanctioned overdose prevention site Friday night at Galt Gardens in response to the city’s ongoing opioid crisis.
But with social media rumblings of angry protesters following Friday night, the LOPS moved its operation to the Civic Centre track Saturday evening.
It didn’t take too long for the protesters to find the new location, and while there was shouting and profanity, there was no violence as the Lethbridge Police Service monitored the scene.
“(Friday) night was very quiet,” said Tim Slaney, a former ARCHES employee and organizer with the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society. “We were definitely expecting for a lot of contact with police and members of the community. We didn’t find that at all. We kind of flew under the radar. We were hoping for a repeat of that (Saturday). There’s obviously quite a bit more attention and to that end we decided to relocate for at least one evening.
“We saw quite a few protesters and we had seen on social media quite a lot of angry language and angry intentions and we decided that instead of making a scene at a park and jeopardizing the safety of our local volunteers we would rather set up at a safe second location.”
Shortly after setting up their 10-by-15 foot tent on Saturday, however, the protesters arrived.
“I think it’s very evident that they’re very angry,” said Slaney. “They came in yelling and, honestly, with quite a bit of threats, which we found very unsettling. Obviously, we’re still here and we still intend to do the work we need to do. I just ask that everybody watching the reaction would acknowledge everybody is here because we want what’s best for the community. We want people to heal and get better, to live to see another day and live full lives. I’d appeal to people who come in and yell and threaten to please sit down and have a dialogue with us. We may never agree, but we don’t need to waste our time doing this. We, now more than ever, need to work together for something for Albertans.”
Sarah Villebrun, who lives a block out of the downtown core, made her opposition to the LOPS clear.
“I am aggravated,” she said. “This is completely illegal for them to be setting up something like this. Essentially, they’re operating a medical clinic with no licence to do so. They are helping people administer narcotics. The world has forgotten that narcotics are illegal, despite the fact they’re painting the picture that they’re saving lives. It’s just as easy for them to walk around with naloxone and save those lives. We have a supervised consumption site set up at a resource centre on 2 Avenue North and it’s absolutely unnecessary to set (this) up half a block away from my home.”
Villebrun acknowledges there’s an opiate crisis in the city. However, as a recovering addict who is still actively involved with many people who use narcotics, she said pop-up tents like the LOPS are unnecessary.
“We can recognize it’s a problem,” said Villebrun. “However, even those who are still caught in addiction themselves know the steps to take to make sure they’re safe while they’re using narcotics. They know about the supervised consumption site that is open and they know how to use naloxone. The community is aware of what’s happening and, quite frankly, it’s things like this that make it seem like it’s a lot worse in Lethbridge than it truly is.
“There are resources and treatment available. The wait times for treatment centres are not as absurd as people think. I have called for many addicts multiple times to assist getting them into treatment centres and helping people fill out applications. I’m a regular citizen and do not work for any organization and even I know the wait times are not that long and the resources are available. So the crisis is not what former ARCHES employees are trying to make it out to be.”
Slaney said the province’s response to the opioid crisis is not working in Lethbridge.
“We have seen a real surge in deaths and their solutions are nowhere close to what we need to stop those. We have seen a tripling in overdose death rates this year, which is completely unprecedented. With that in mind, opening an overdose prevention site with one-10th the capacity of the one they closed is simply ridiculous.”
Slaney said the LOPS tent comes with a medical bag with life-saving materials such naloxone.
“We are providing a safe place for people to come and use their drugs in a space where people who have training and experience in responding to overdose will be able to witness any events such as an overdose and act as a first responder and administer an antidote and immediately contact EMS.”
Despite Saturday’s confrontation, Slaney said the LOPS intends to continue.
“I would say, if anything, this was an encouraging night. This was very much a worst-case scenario for what would happen going forward and we weathered it. We were able to get set up and navigate the police and protesters. So I see no reason why we can’t continue to do this.”

Police and City bylaw officials were on hand as the group again set up Monday night at Galt Gardens. A ticket was issued for not having a permit and officials pointed out that at the time no illegal activity was occurring.

“It has been clearly identified that the city is not in a position to issue permits for any sort of illegal activity,” said City bylaw enforcement officer Dave Henley.

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It looks like if you do something illegal openly and it affects no one with a vested interest, then it is not breaking the law. Ergo when people speed, fail to stop at stop signs or red lights, u-turns in the middle of the road and drive on the wrong side of the road is OK. Where has Law and Order gone. What can law abiding citizens expect or should they revert to doing what the others do. Will that not lead to chaos?


Do you know what leads to chaos, phlushie? Incitement and vigilantism.


and what do you think leads to this. the powers at be do nothing and even say they can do nothing about it.


Lethbridge had become a free for all . . . dragging down Whoop-up drive from the 5th street and 6 avenue lights, loud and mufflerless motorbikes, trucks and cars using downtown to race around and hookers, drugdealers and pimps at times outnumber the law abiding citizen. Often there are more criminal vehicles patrolling the hookers than other vehicles on the streets at night.
Speeding, failing to stop at lights or stop signs, illegal u-turns mid street are the usual sight to see by the criminal drivers patrolling the hookers . . . because the now think they own the streets at night and during the day!
I can see thousands of dollars of violations occur on the streets in just 30 minutes looking out my window often, but that is what happens when laws are not enforced.
People can drive however they want now and the addicts can takeover our streets with impunity now and as we have seen in the news, they don’t have to listen to police commands and can turn and run from police, and when the police pursue and try to restrain them . . . the police are in the wrong according to social media . . . Chaos is already here and it appears that it is not going away . . . criminals and thiefs now run around and do as they want!


I talked to the police about this, and they aren’t doing anything illegal, and have no intentions to act against this.

Even if they took away their tent, what you have is a group of people who are volunteering to monitor drug use to prevent overdoses.

lol someone earlier posted how Hyggen “cured addiction” by closing the SCS.

I talked to the police also about the users downtown, and the users aren’t doing anything illegal just by being. People have to understand laws and law enforcement. If the active drug users in the homeless population (which is close to 100%) are NOT being arrested by the police you should ask yourself WHY instead of demanding them to do so just because you don’t like the homeless.

Closing the SCS was just closing an avenue of services (there was a clinic there, access to treatment facilities, mitigation for Hep-C and HIV transmission, a whole lot more than the injecting, needle disposal, and so on). I mean, too bad you didn’t like it, I didn’t like it either, but that isn’t the point.

The point was that there are 400+ homeless people with many of them facing addiction and no one was doing anything about it and at this point almost no one is. There are more and more drug users in this city with or without the SCS there. Ya’ll are ridiculous for blaming and scapegoating instead of doing ANYTHING constructive or worthwhile to fix it.


A rational and considered position, Uncle Buck.


Sounds like Uncle Buck is a ex-SCS employee still spewing disinformation. There are not 400+ homeless, ask the police, many have homes to go to!
I live and work downtown and have thousands of pictures to prove they do commit illegal acts all over downtown! It all continued after the SCS opened, in fact it increased because all the additional services attracted them to be on the streets!
And if you knew Blaine Hyggens concerns he never wanted to shut down the SCS he wanted them to start doing the job they said they would, but they didn’t, instead they created a party palace that attracted addicts because of the social aspects of feeling a part of a group, while spreading disinformation to media and in front of Council!
Crime increase almost 6000% near the SCS after it opened as reported by LPS.
After 17 years of the BC safe injections, billions of dollars later, the number of addicts continue to increase, the number of fatal overdose increase as does crime and homelessness!
If you truly are tired of watching all the young people die as I have in the past 2 years, sensely, you would push for more effective treatment programs for the addicts and treatmeat for those with mental health issues!
Enabling only gives a couple of years of a slow and painful deaths riding a wild roller coaster in the pits of hell!
You say you talk to police . . . which ones have filled you with this garbage you spew? Or are you mis-quoting and paraphrasing what they said?


Police continue to fail to protect and serve the community as the saga continues of public urination/defecation, open drug use and drinking, public intoxication and people dancing around on Meth whose mind is somewhere in a galaxy far away on downtown streets with impunity . . . where are the police when some of these individuals known to have violent tendencies are creating issues in public in areas that they have been trespassed? They arrive long after called and say “there is nothing we can do, we can write them a ticket that they will not pay, if they don’t pay the Crown will not put them in jail . . . these people know there are no deterrents so they do what they want, on our streets.
This site is set up by people whose previous organization is under investigation for misappropriation of funds, who stood before Council and refused to answer some questions while spreading disinformation about the numbers of users. They misled the public, they refused to acknowledge the impact on our community and now they continue to break the law by setting up this tent and . . . . our city does nothing!!!
This will attract more users to our parks and turn them into parks taken over in BC that we have seen, Oppenheimer Park being just one of many in Vancouver!
This mad experiment failed miserably in BC, cosing billions of dollars and thousands of lives! They get sucked into the addiction merry go round where social services supplies the basic services to survive while on the streets and the safe injection sites supplies all of their paraphernalia needs and Naloxone kits . . . . imagine if all those billions were put into effective treatment programs . . . instead for the 17 years they have operated the number of addicts increase, the number of fatal overdoses crime and homelessness. We are on the same track and the fatal overdoses seen recently in this city are no higher than the rise in BC, attributed to COVID restrictions put in place!
Build it and they will come . . . I have been saying this for 3 1/2 years when they were planning the site, and they did!!!
Taxpayers and donors supply them shelter, 2 meals per day at the soup kitchen that are better than many seniors and handicapped eat, as well as groups that are moblie handing out lunch bags. Clothes are supplied by various agencies and other personal needs so they can use their checks to buy drugs and when that is gone many commit crimes to feed their addiction!
Crime, prostitution, public negative displays of urination, etc. homelessness all are caused by the addiction . . . heal the cause of the addiction by effective treatment programs that do work and are proven in the US ‘WITHOUT SAFE CONSUMPTION SITES’ and you will dramatically reduce the issues we now have. We will never completely resovle all the addiction problems and a police force will have to put in place that will perform their duties to protect and serve the community. Leadership of this community must stop letting 150 people on the streets destroy our community!!
This tent needs to be shut down now! It is illegal and they do not have the exemptions by Health Canada to operate it! ARCHES is under investigation by LPS, and my concerns now that this police force will not act in a manner that will see justice for this community in this manner after allowing this tent to continue to be in operation!
Our city’s reputation will never recover if we do not take action! This is our city and it IS our choice what we allow in it! How many more millions of taxpayer dollars will it take before you wake up? The costs of the SCS and the rippling impacts and services put in place to counter the impact have cost us at least $30 million in the past 3 years . . . when will you say enough!
Almost $40 million was spent on the arts downtown in the past 5 years for CASA and the Yates and another $20 million on a parkade built for people to come into town park at the facility and use transit ot conduct business, so they said when it was announced under the NDP Green plan . . . No one wants to come downtown because it is over-run by addicts and vehicles getting broke into . . . on top of that we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a ‘revitalization’ project on 3rd avenue south right where Galt Gardens is . . . so how are we doing all the revitalization for, the benches, etc. . . . who do you think will be sitting on those new benches?
We have to tear down a downtown stand alone toilet for the public by BMO that cost $195,000 because it became a party palace for users, often 5-6 addicts jammed in it! They had to take down many other benches downtown because the addicts always hung out on them . . . we need to get rid of the issues on our streets before we revitalize . . . you can spend all you want but people will not come downtown until it is safe again!
Stand up for our city and stop this insanity!!!


I just can’t leave this alone . . . it is so appalling.
A ticket was issued, but they tent was still up and it was open in Civic Center today . . . tickets but still allowed to operate . . . .hmmmm great deterrent!
If police didn’t see any illegal activity, maybe it is because addicts didn’t want to use the tent with police there??? I can walk though Galt Gardens almost any day and see open drug use, and it has been like that throughout the SCS being open . . . pictures, times and dates to prove it!
So . . . I guess me and the boys can go to any park and drink our face off and run around drunk, danding on park tables and bothering other people in the parks with impunity, since the addicts get to do that on our streets and get to inject openly and smoke crack and meth where ever they want, with impunity!
I think that about sums it up . . . what is next open orgies allowed. I already see open sexual acts downtown!
Once a beautiful city people wanted to come and retire in, criminals and addicts now rule as we sink into the abysss under our leadership!

Dennis Bremner

Slaney is an opportunist and a purveyor of false information. He states : “We have seen a real surge in deaths and their solutions are nowhere close to what we need to stop those. We have seen a tripling in overdose death rates this year, which is completely unprecedented. 
“We” have seen a real surge in deaths? Really? Did he check the numbers of deaths in places that have a full blown SCS? They are seeing the same surge. The surge is a result of improvised cooking shops creating the drugs that normally come across the border but with the border shutdown we now have cook shops. That creates bad drugs. Those bad drugs kill people and even with a FIX Room like Lethbridge was running, the net result would be ZERO difference but of course that does not stop people like Delaney insinuating that a bigger SCS means more lives saved ergo less deaths. Delaney forgets the SCS serviced less than 5% of the drug population of Lethbridge. The other 95% never used the SCS, so if one of those die, he gets to say another addict dead that he could have saved.

A total 100% FALSEHOOD.