Council approves looking into 'options' surrounding supervised consumption site

By Jessie Weisner
February 4, 2019 - 8:32pm Updated: February 5, 2019 - 7:41pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB -- City Council has approved a notice of motion to delve into other options surrounding the supervised consumption site.

Councillor Julie Friesen put forward the motion, which was approved by a unanimous vote.

The motion reads:

“In view of the public safety and business concerns observed in our and other communities in Southern Alberta arising from the advent of supervised consumption sites, let the CAO be directed to investigate all options available to the City of Medicine Hat to deal with these public safety and business concerns.”

When pressed on what ‘options’ meant, Friesen had no clear answer.

“This motion really leaves the door open for the CAO to explore any,” says Friesen ”That’s why I say any or all options because we really don’t know what they would be.”

Friesen says the motion was inspired by recent information regarding Calgary’s supervised consumption site in the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre.

“The motion came about primarily as a result of our being in receipt of increased information related to research and experience that came out of the city of Calgary" says Friesen "Where they have actually got the research and evidence based information related to their site.”

The report released on January 29 by the Calgary Police shows a 276 per cent increase in calls related to drug use, possession and trafficking within a 250-metre radius around the health centre. The site began operating in October 2017.

In addition, the report shows a 47 per cent increase in violence and a 63 per cent increase in vehicle crimes compared to three year averages.

“We’re asking that our CAO investigate what options are available to the City of Medicine Hat,” says Friesen. “To deal with the public safety concerns we’re hearing to some extent in our own community as well as the business concerns.”

Mayor Ted Clugston says the options presented could be broad.

“So we’ve asked our CAO to just give us an update, some information or briefing, maybe some options as to what we can do to alleviate some of these public safety concerns, maybe it’s a fence, maybe its a wall,” says Clugston. “It could be anything from that to what our legal recourse is.”

However, one business owner who’s threatened to launch a lawsuit about the supervised consumption site, says there’s only one option.

“The level of crime we see in other centres is completely unacceptable in our neighbourhood so its got to go somwhere else,” says Gregg Martin,co-owner of Pattison Funeral Home. “If we have to have it as a city, it’s gotta go somwhere else.”

Clugston adds the supervised consumption site is still a provincial led initiative, which the city has little control over.

“This is the other two levels of government,” says Clugston. “This has been opposed upon the City of Medicine Hat.”

“I think everything is really up in the air,” says Clugston. “But I mean I think the province and HIV is going to move forward with this location, I don’t know, that’s why we’ve asked for some options.”

Clugston also acknowledges an increased police presence will be required.

“We need to have increased policing,” says Clugston. “I mean you’ve got people living in the neighbourhood, you’ve got kids going to school there, you’ve got businesses that are actively doing business.”

Friesen hopes to have some options presented at the next City Council meeting on February 19. 

More to come..

Loan to Riverview Golf Club being discussed