January 22nd, 2021

Council discusses unsanctioned overdose prevention site

By Jensen, Randy on September 29, 2020.

Protesters gather on the steps of city hall Monday afternoon to demand officials respond to the unsanctioned supervised consumption site set up in two city parks over the weekend. Herald photo by Tim Kalinowski

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


With old wounds reopening in the city over the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society’s decision to offer an unsanctioned overdose prevention site in public areas of downtown this past weekend, the Community Issues Committee of city council held an impromptu information session during its regular meeting on Monday.

Councillors asked the City’s senior bylaw officer Dave Henley to explain the next steps going forward. Henley told council the Lethbridge Police Service was monitoring the tent set up by the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society for illegal drug use and other criminal activity, but had yet to witness any criminal use of drugs near or within the tent.

Coun. Blaine Hyggen acknowledged the police effort, but felt the tent could be taken down immediately as it was in violation of the City’s bylaws regarding illegal structures.

Henley said there were steps the City has to take under the Municipal Government Act in order to enforce the bylaw Hyggen was referring to. First, the group would have to be officially informed they were in violation of the City’s bylaws, and they would be given a certain amount of time to comply. If they failed to comply the City would then be able to give official notice the illegal structure would have to come down or issue tickets for non-compliance.

If the group still failed to comply, the City could seek out a court order to enforce the notice.

Henley said the ones given the notice would also be able to appeal it under the MGA, and it was preferred if a mediated solution could be arrived at before it got to that point.

After Henley’s presentation, Hyggen expressed his continued frustration and confusion to reporters regarding the issue.

“There is a tent that has been erected,” he stated. “There is no permit for it. So it should be removed. I am just confused as to why that is not the case. I will look more into it and get more information from our city manager.”

Prior to the meeting, a group of about a dozen members of the Lethbridge Citizens Alliance protested outside city hall. They, too, demanded the City take swift action against the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society.

“This is not my Lethbridge,” said the group’s spokesperson Mike Hoffman. “I hope they don’t give a permit to these people to operate an illegal, non-sanctioned activity, because that is what it is. And for our City to support that, I think would be a slap in the face to every citizen that pays taxes in this city.”

He said the people in Lethbridge had worked too long and hard to have the former supervised consumption site closed to allow this type of illegal activity in city parks.

“I am here today to state our disdain to our mayor and council with regards to this last weekend’s activities that went unchecked here in our city parks,” he said. “We have our Lethbridge city police force turning a blind eye to these circumstances when we have brought it to their attention each night when they have set up these tents.”

Mayor Chris Spearman conceded the Overdose Prevention Society may be well-intentioned, but felt there was simply no room in the community for this type of unsanctioned activity.

“We encourage people to use the sanctioned Overdose Prevention Site operating by Alberta Health Services in Lethbridge,” Spearman said. “We want people going there rather than using impromptu sites in our city parks.”

“We don’t want rogue elements starting up,” he added. “We understand the people are well-intentioned, but, at the same time, you have to follow the law. And you have to make sure we are working as a community to address our challenges together.”

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

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Citi Zen

Council, as usual, will side-step the issue, talk in circles, stall for time, and do everything they can to not deal with this matter. Illegal is illegal, period.

Dennis Bremner

I think Council may finally be getting the message, not sure. Let me help the Council in realizing why the pop up tent is a bonehead move created by those who wish “to grandstand” albeit to help as well.
The Pop is a flagwaver to try to indicate that more help is needed. The facts unfortunately do not support their manipulated numbers. More importantly, home grown drug cookers use the SCS mobile and the tent to “experiment with product”.
What Council seems not to understand is “cookers of drugs” love SCSs in fact they thrive off of them. Here is how it works. Lets suppose you are a kitchen drug maker. You cook up this concoction and want to sell it but you have one problem, what if it kills everyone? So you go to the most desperate addict you can find and you say “here is a free hit of THE GOOD STUFF” but, its really powerful stuff, so I will drive you to the SCS/pop up tent and shoot it up there.
He drops the addict off and waits and if the addict walks out of the SCS/Popup tent and is still alive, then he starts selling his new supply and if the desperate addict really enjoyed the high then he has built in advertising. If the addict comes out on a slab he flushes the brew down the toilet and starts again. Dead Addict=bad batch, almost dead addict= bad batch. Walking addict= sell the load!
So I know Council is trying to straddle a fence of being a Pious Religious Do Gooder who cares for all men/women but you have made the right decision, these places should be shut down as quickly as they popup. If someone dies and does not get revived, who is libel?
You have been warned, because if you think taxpayers will bail you out of a stupid decision if you “relent” think again!
In fact if you were a “smart” council and I reserve my comment on that, you would immediately pass a “SCS Popups not allowed by-law” to ensure you do not make OUR city responsible for the nutbars with a $20 canvass!

Last edited 3 months ago by Dennis Bremner

Maybe, just maybe, this society is wishing to get on the Government Tit to run a sanctioned SCS and maybe abscond with another Millan of tax payers money. If they are so well intentioned why don’t they take one of these drug abusers into there home and provide a structured environment to rehabilitate them. They would be surprised, when there intentions only provide a safe home with no desire to stop their addictive behavior. How many applied for a detox bed but didn’t show up, because they had to be drug free to enter and they could not meet that criteria. Power to those that did. Rehabilitation is the responsibility of the drug user not society. Access is available but the will of the addict to take the first step is not there. The old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can not make him drink.” applies. As for saving lives, those that choose suicide will eventually succeed until THEY change THEIR mind.