By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on January 15, 2022.
An Edmonton NDP Member of Parliament is asking the federal government to intervene after a Court of Queen’s Bench judge Monday denied an injunction requested by two groups seeking to prevent the Alberta government from implementing regulations on the operation of supervised consumption sites.
Heather McPherson told The Herald Friday “I’m asking the federal minister to step in and intervene in the appeal process,” she said.
“The ruling itself is based on legislation that the government has brought forward so it’s not so much I think the ruling isn’t fair so much as I’m deeply concerned about the legislation to start with,” she said.
“I’m deeply concerned people are going to lose their lives while we debate this in the court. The judge acknowledged a loss of life, that there would be damages and that just seems unacceptable to me,” said McPherson.
A lawsuit by the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society and Moms Stop the Harm Society was launched on Aug. 13, 2021 to prevent the government from enacting new rules for the sites.
The lawsuit specifically stated that “plaintiffs seek an order declaring portions of a regulation (the challenged regulation) pertaining to the consumption of illicit drugs at Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS) to be constitutionally invalid and inoperable and of no force and effect as a result of alleged breaches of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Justice R. Paul Belzil stated “I am satisfied that the applicants have met the burden of establishing irreparable harm will occur to some illicit drug users if the Interlocutory injunction is not granted.”
But the judge also addressed the issue of which party would suffer greater harm from granting or refusing the injunction in his ruling.
He listed multiple reasons why he felt the injunction shouldn’t be granted, stating “LOPS has not met the burden of demonstrating that the suspension of the challenged regulation would provide a public health benefit greater than the public interest provided for in the challenged regulation.”
The Edmonton MP said in regard to other elements of the judge’s ruling “there is joint jurisdiction between federal and provincial obligations and so the federal government has an obligation, in my mind, to intervene at this point.”
She said she understands that MSTH and LOPS will be submitting an appeal and have also asked Ottawa to intervene.
McPherson said she’s asked the federal minister to “meet with us and meet with the groups involved so that we can find a solution for this as fast as possible. We are involved in the middle of a public health emergency and we should be doing everything we can to increase access to harm reduction and safe supply sites. We should not be doing anything that impedes people’s ability to stay alive during this crisis.”
In his decision, Belzil wrote “the applicants argue that the challenged Regulation encroaches on federal jurisdiction in criminal law by allegedly undermining the legislative purpose of s.56.1, thus engaging the issue of paramountcy. I do not agree.”
He stated in his ruling ‘”If this Interlocutory application succeeded, Alberta’s ability to format addiction policy, pending the outcome of the action, would be severely restricted.”
“Whether one agrees or disagrees with this approach, it cannot be denied that Alberta is responding with a defined policy and not ignoring the issue,” wrote the judge.
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