January 22nd, 2021

OPS appears at Police Commission

By Jensen, Randy on October 1, 2020.

Police and bylaw enforcement attend the unsanctioned overdose prevention site earlier this week at Galt Gardens. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


Representatives of the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society made a brief presentation to the Lethbridge Police Commission on Wednesday about what their purposes are in the community, and what they intend to do going forward.

Group spokesperson Kaley Ann Beaudoin told commissioners they have applied for a legal exemption from Health Canada to offer sanctioned overdose prevention services in Lethbridge, but in the meantime would continue to operate as an unsanctioned OPS site despite some community opposition.

“This (exemption) process takes time, and the immediate needs of the community can not wait on bureaucracy,” she said. “There is a history in Canada of overdose prevention sites beginning as unsanctioned, and applying for their legal exemption afterwards. The Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society intends to follow in the footsteps of those exemption sites that came before us.”

She also stated that unsanctioned does not mean illegal and, referencing failed attempts to close Insite in Vancouver by previous governments, felt the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with her group’s interpretation of the law.

Beaudoin expressed the hope that the current OPS operated by Alberta Health Services and the broader community would work with them to support their efforts to save lives.

“First and foremost, the ARCHES-operated SCS closed at the end of August of this year,” she explained to reporters after her presentation to the commission. “So that option has closed. In its place, we saw a mobile van come from Alberta Health Services, and they have a capacity of about 10 per cent of what ARCHES was able to accommodate. We did not see an uptake into the same levels of numbers into the AHS mobile unit from the ARCHES supervised consumption site. So people from the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society have been connecting with people who use drugs in Lethbridge to try to understand why they are not using that site. And so what we wanted to do was to address some of those concerns and provide an alternative.

“We want to work harmoniously with AHS,” she stated. “We don’t see us as something to happen instead, but rather a complement in order to provide people with an option in what services they can access. And to make them more accessible for people who don’t feel comfortable or safe to make it down to the (AHS) van.”

Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh, in his first appearance at the police commission since becoming chief, contradicted Beaudoin’s interpretation of the law.

“There is always safety concerns with any facility when you are dealing with drug use and overdose issues,” he explained to reporters. “And when outfits and agencies who are not going through the proper procedure to get the proper licensing and clearance from Health Canada, it is certainly concerning to us and, I am sure, the majority of citizens here.”

“The law is very clear on that,” he added. “They don’t have approval from Health Canada; so they are not an agency that has the clearance to provide those services. The law is very clear: what they are doing is illegal. But it is also important not be heavy handed in relation to the law itself. We haven’t seen any illegal activity so far, which is a good thing, but even when we do, like in any case, it is subject to investigation and discretion as to where we want to go with that and how we want to deal with it.”

Mehdizadeh conceded Overdose Prevention Society members are well-intentioned, but he also made it clear any criminal activity observed by his officers at the group’s pop-up tent is subject to charges, both for the society’s members and for the drug users they profess to be helping.

“When these tents and these initiatives are set up, the intent is good, but the way they are going about it is wrong,” he stated. “In fact, I am really concerned about the consumption that is going on. If anything happens in this tent, and if something bad was to happen – do they have the training to actually deal with the situation? Or are they putting themselves in a position of liability by opening these things.”

But Mehdizadeh also conceded there are no easy answers to the situation.

“We take the tent down, we are sure two more will be coming up,” he said. “So is that the answer? I don’t think so. It’s a matter of education and making sure what they are doing they are doing it according to the laws and approvals they need to get.”

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So they are open for business without the required Health Canada Exemption, but they have applied for it!
Do we open a Cannabis store to sell pot before we get a licence? Or a liquor store before getting a licence?
This proves they think they can force this on a community that stated they do not want in their community and fought long and hard to rid the community of the menace that destroyed businesses, livelihoods, communities and this city’s reputation! They are under investigation for misappropriation of funds and have stood before Council and misled them, the media and the taxpayers by inflating stats.
They promote more people to place these tents, all against the will of the people. They should be thrown in jail!
We have a mobile safe consumption site the is adequate! The inflated figures of over 750 people per day turned into 130 people per day once AHS did it’s own monitoring this spring.
When applying for the Section 56.1 Exemption, there are several areas that must be met:

-local conditions indicating a need for the site;
-impact on crime rates;
-administrative structure in place to support the facility;
-resources available to support its maintenance; and
-expressions of community support or opposition.

Frist there is no need for the site. The recent spike fatal overdoses began several weeks BEFORE the SCS was closed down and was seen across North America and BC due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Second, The major increase in crime noted in this city with LPS reporting a 6,000% increase in the area of the SCS after it opened.
Third, this community has made it clear that it doesn’t want this site in this city!
To allow these people that are under investigation for missing funds to violate the wishes of the residents in this city by operating this illegal tent is spitting in the faces of those that have already lost so much from the SCS impacts!
“….The provincial government, in a statement, said Slaney’s operation was illegal and was in contravention of the Criminal Code of Canada…..”
….”Alberta‚Äôs government provides a legal, sanctioned overdose prevention site a block away from this location, with adequate capacity for the community,” said Addictions and Mental Health Minister Jason Luan.
“We expect the City of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Police Service to enforce the law.”…..
There isn’t much more to say! Throw them in jail!!!

Last edited 3 months ago by ewingbt

I had hopes that this “new” Police Chief might have some intestinal fortitude and be more of a law enforcement official than a politician . The comments made however seem to suggest the new Chief, much like the old one, is prepared to pussy foot about and “study” the problem [ the new buzz word for inactivity apparently ] until someone else makes a decision, be it Health Canada or a bunch of yahoos in a pickup truck.
I’ll save the taxpayers a ton of money on further “study” with this advice : Take down the tent, fine the “erectors” $300.00 under the By-Law. Seize the Tent as an Exhibit. Serve each of the LOPS attendees a Notice under Provincial legislation banning them from Galt Gardens [ commonly referred to as a trespass notice ] . If they return, fine them again, and again and again. Remove them from the Park each time. If they don’t get the message, escalate this to a Court Order [ that is why we have a City Solicitors Office ]. Lock up anyone breaching the Order for contempt.
Simply post a uniformed Police Officer outside the door of the tent nightly. Much like the businesses near the SCS who saw business dry up because of addicts ” asleep” on their stairwells these tenters will have no customers.
As yesterdays Editorial made clear, this illegal operation is unnecessary. Perhaps someone entrusted with making responsible decisions will finally see the tail wagging the dog is not a good look for the City.


Better yet, have the officer stand at the ‘doorway’ of the tent and when they see the drugs come out, charge the user with possession since these sites are illegal and are not protected, but you won’t see the LPS do this, that would actually mean stopping this tent’s operations! There are many ways to act so that these lawbreakers can be shut down but LPS won’t act . . . they chose what they want to act on . . . writing traffic tickets are below them and protecting the public from these criminals running the streets now is optional, or so it appears!
We are on our own . . . . rumor has it this group is putting together a mobile unit and have no intention of stopping this illegal act and have the support and funding of the nationwide illegal Overdose Prevention Society!
It is time that it has federal implications to ask the RCMP for help since LPS will not act on this lawbreakers!


Or one could spend the money currently being spent on some notion of enforcement and direst it to people in need.