The issue of safe consumption sites in Edmonton has been a controversial one. And I think the reason it has caused so much strain—and for some groups, serious issues within their home neighbourhoods—is less about the "what" of the harm reduction strategy and more about the "how."
I believe strongly that harm reduction saves lives. The evidence supports its efficacy. So, I do believe that safe consumption sites are an important component of a broader addiction supports plan for our residents struggling with substance use and related suffering.
But I think a serious mistake was when safe consumption sites were concentrated in one area of our city. And if you spend any time in Chinatown, you can clearly see the unintended consequences of this decision. It’s not just that we’re drawing this population to one neighbourhood that’s the issue. It’s that we’re doing so without providing the additional wrap-around services they need. This co-location of these sites also ignores an important fact: Edmontonians who need access to safe consumption sites don’t only live downtown. By moving some of these sites to other areas of the city, we’d be doing a better job of reaching more residents and providing them with the supports they need where they are.
Ensuring our programs and funding models are getting results, recognizing the individuality of our citizens in need, and incentivizing collaboration rather than competition across agencies are the cornerstones of my Supports for our Most Vulnerable platform pillar. Here’s my balanced plan to get better results for residents struggling with addiction, and our central neighbourhoods:
Supports and services for all people in need—hard-to-house, hard-to-house addicted, and those struggling to make ends meet—are essential for any vibrant and thriving urban centre. By reexamining safe consumption sites in addition to implementing the key components of my Plan for Safe Communities, we can improve outcomes for all Edmontonians.
Edmontonians are compassionate and generous of spirit. Our City government needs to cultivate that sense of community and inclusion by taking a balanced and thoughtful approach to key decisions around supports for our most vulnerable citizens. We need to unify our residents around solutions, rather than divide them along ideological rhetoric.
A vote for me is a vote for a safer and more unified Edmonton.