The panel reviewing supervised injection sites in Alberta was in Edmonton Wednesday night to hear feedback from a divided public.
The committee, chaired by former Edmonton Police Service Chief Rod Knecht, is studying how supervised injection sites impact crime rates, home values and overdoses.
Many of the speakers were in support of the sites and spoke of the good they do.
“I owe my life to those who chose to provide support to me,” said one speaker.
“The safe injection sites are critical, and we need more,” another said.
Knecht said that he and the committee now have a good understanding of both sides of the issue.
"We are hearing it is very polarizing," Knecht told CTV News Edmonton. "People are dead set against it and some are extremely, totally for it and then we get everything in between."
While many at the meeting spoke in favour of the sites, he said some people who are against them have been bringing boxes of needles to show the committee.
“They’re collecting needles in their businesses or on the street or in their parks and that sort of thing. That’s been significant in every community.”
There are four injection sites in Edmonton. As of July, the three public sites located downtown had reversed more than 700 overdoses.
Jason Luan, the associate minister of mental health and addictions, has said existing sites will not be affected.
The UCP government paused funding as its panel reviews proposed sites for Calgary, Red Deer and Medicine Hat.
Knecht said he is confident that the panel will find ways to make injection sites safer.
“Everybody safe, not just the addict population, but the community, the business world, all Albertans,” said Knecht. “I think we can provide some helpful information to the government to move this issue forward.”
The meeting was at the Edmonton Inn and Conference Centre and there is another open house on Thursday.
The panel has already visited other Alberta cities and Edmonton is its last stop.
People can also provide feedback online.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nicole Weisberg