Ritchie, Strathcona residents express frustration over public consultation process for south-side 'health hub'
Boyle Street Community Services has acknowledged it has a lot of trust-building to do around Edmonton's first potential overdose prevention services south of the river.
The Ritchie Community League Hall was packed by 6 p.m. for Boyle Street's second town hall on Monday.
Many of those in attendance wore stop sign-shaped stickers that read: "Find a better location."
Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) brought in police, fire and health officials to help answer questions from community members. The agency also prepared a slideshow presentation with information about how the "microsite" at 81 Avenue and 101 Street would operate.
Originally, the social agency planned to station its workers and the police, fire and health officials around the room for one-on-one questions. But early in the meeting, at the announcement there wouldn't be an open floor for questions, some in the crowd began to boo.
"No. No. We want to be heard. We want to have a voice," one woman yelled. Cries of "bait and switch" and "keep it public" followed.
"Guys, there's lots of us here in opposition. Let's be respectful," another attendee said.
At other points in the evening, audience members accused the Boyle Street team of shutting down and disempowering the community.
"It's already a foregone conclusion when they decided to sign the lease without consulting the community," Sherri McKnight told CTV News Edmonton after the meeting ended.
- Many Ritchie businesses and residents 'feeling conflicted' about new Boyle Street health hub
- Ritchie zoning hearing dominated by community concerns surrounding new Boyle Street health hub
BSCS already has a lease for the 81 Avenue building but is in the process of obtaining the proper licencing and illegal-drug exemptions to operate three overdose prevention booths, which requires the provincial government's approval.
In response to criticism that public consultation did not start out broad enough, Boyle Street's Elliott Tanti acknowledged, "I, ultimately, am the head of engagement for our organization and that was a mistake."
Eventually, moderator Michael Walters – the former city councillor – announced questions could be asked on a one-on-one basis in another room and the main floor would be opened to questions.
"We're doing our best," he said when opponents started to yell again.
"You're not doing very well," a man in the crowd retorted.
"You're controlling the agenda 100 per cent," a woman added.
Walters replied: "We're gonna be at eight o'clock before anyone asks a question."
- Proposed health-care hub with overdose prevention site to be Edmonton's first ever south of the river
- Mixed reviews come in for Boyle Street's proposed Strathcona health-care hub
Out of the building on 81 Avenue, BSCS will also offer housing, recovery and addiction help, and limited in-patient medical care.
As organizers said on Monday, the facility would be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. At least six workers – including a nurse, social worker, and security – would be on site at all times. Housing outreach workers, mental health counsellors, clean-up crews and cultural support workers would also visit the site throughout the week.
An estimated 15 to 30 people would be moved through the site each day.
"What's the observation plan in place after people use [drugs] to prevent psychosis on the street?" one community member asked.
"We do ask them to stay – and they generally do stay – for at least 15 minutes," Tanti replied. "That's sort of a minimum requirement. Generally, in our experience operating supervised consumption sites, the people stay much longer and in fact, we actually have to ask people to leave so we can continue people through the site because it's a place where they feel safe."
Some attendees at the town hall wore stickers saying, 'Find a better location,' and line through 'Strathcona Health Hub on 81 Avenue' (CTV News Edmonton/Sean McClune).
He told the crowd a lack of food, sleep and a sense of safety all contribute to frantic behaviour after drug use, and are all things the microsite would help its clients find.
"When you create a safe place for people to use, the behaviour people exhibit completely changes. We see it all the time in the people we serve," Tanti said.
- More than 1,400 Albertans died from drug-poisoning deaths in 2022: provincial data
- Is Alberta's approach to addiction truly behind the declining number of drug-poisoning deaths?
Another audience member asked what recourse the community had if the facility had negative impacts on the neighbourhood. According to Tanti, the facility would be subject to a six-month probationary period upon opening. Its licence would be up for renewal each year and could be revoked at any time, too, he said. BSCS would regularly report to the provincial government about its operations and community impact.
He also fielded questions about the difference between the proposed facility and Edmonton's other social services, what local crime data could be made available to the public, and what security measures would be put in place to protect customers of neighbouring businesses.
"I guess I'm having a bit of an identity crisis because I believe so much in harm reduction, but I'm also coming as a parent," admitted a registered nurse and mother of two young children. "I feel concerned about my usage pattern but highly protective of my little kids, and too, because I want to foster positive engagement with people who are different than us, and I wonder if this is going to hinder that more than it helps it."
"Thank you. I hear the tension in your voice," Tanti noted before explaining BSCS plans to contract professional security resources and also provides specialized training.
"Maybe that means at three o'clock, when we know lots of parents are coming to pick up kids, those people are out in the community?" he suggested.
A business owner asked, "If this goes forward, would you be open to training my staff about the de-escalation and naloxone?"
"Absolutely," Tanti replied.
- 36 beds opening in Edmonton for homeless people recently discharged from ER
- Feds announce program to fight opioid poisoning in Edmonton
"Who are these people who are using the site? I want to hear a discussion about the humanity of these people, like what kind of demographics and what kind of situations are they coming from," another person asked.
He continued: "The thing is they're already there. I don't think there's a lot of recognition in this discussion of the humanity of those people. Their lives matter."
'WHERE THE SERVICES ARE NEEDED'
The question-and-answer period lasted more than 90 minutes.
"I think it was a very robust, if not animated and heated, discussion," commented Rob Bligh, one of the original members of the group Scona Concerned Citizens.
"Some of the answers about how they would operate the site, the purpose of the site, I think they were very good. It doesn't address the issue of why put it in a location that's as vibrant and robust as what they've chosen, and the damage that it will cause."
Rob Bligh speaks with CTV News Edmonton after the Monday evening town hall (CTV News Edmonton/Sean McClune).
He asked Tanti that question during the public forum and was told BSCS looked at overdose data, consulted other service providers, and talked to land and property owners before picking a location.
By Bligh's math, with a 500-metre radius of the address, there are three daycares with 220 licenced spaces for children, nine family activity centres, some 2,000 residents and 400 businesses.
"I heard a lot of your description of why this is good for people that have addictions and why this helps the people that are in need of that kind of help. What I didn't hear in there was any consideration for the affected neighbourhood… That's not part of your decision criteria," Bligh told Tanti.
"No, it's not," Tanti replied.
"How could it not be?" Bligh asked.
"It's because it's where the services are needed," Tanti told him.
- Edmonton opioid-related EMS calls increase 299% since 2018
- 'Death trap': Front-line workers warn of drug overdoses rising on and off the streets
After the meeting, a Ritchie resident of 20 years and Bear Clan volunteer told CTV News Edmonton she feared the community did not understand how the overdose prevention site would benefit residents.
"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding that having this site present will cause an influx of unhoused people or criminals into our area, but the way I see it there's already issues with homelessness and addictions and mental health challenges in our community," Carolyn Belanger said. "By having this site available to people, it will act as a hub so people can come and find security and safety and also connect with resources they might not otherwise have access to."
For the second day in a row, Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz on Tuesday declined to comment on the debate going on in Ritchie and Strathcona, calling it a provincial matter.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi wouldn't comment specifically on the 81 Avenue site, but called harm reduction strategies and safe supply necessary in tackling the drug crisis.
"I hope that Edmontonians embrace a compassionate approach to helping Edmontonians get better," he told reporters at city hall.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Sean McClune and Adam Lachacz
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada makes amendments to foreign homebuyers ban – here's what they look like
Months after Canada's ban on foreign homebuyers took effect on Jan. 1, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has made several amendments to the legislation allowing non-Canadians to purchase residential properties in certain circumstances.
'Leave this with me': Alberta premier heard on call with COVID-19 protester
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in a leaked cellphone call, commiserated with a COVID-19 protester about his trial while divulging to him there was an internal dispute over how Crown prosecutors were handling COVID-19 cases.
What is the grocery rebate in federal budget 2023? Key questions, answered
To help offset rising living expenses, the Government of Canada has introduced a one-time grocery rebate for low- and modest-income Canadians. Here is what we know about the rebate.
Spending to increase economic capacity is fiscally responsible, Freeland says in post-budget defence
Defending her latest federal budget, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said spending that increases economic capacity is fiscally responsible.
Victim of Vancouver stabbing had asked man not to vape near toddler, says grieving mom
The family of a 37-year-old man who was stabbed to death in Vancouver last weekend says he was attacked after asking someone not to vape near his young daughter.
From royal titles to animal testing: The law changes coming in the budget bill
The 2023 federal budget released this week includes a series of affordability measures, tax changes, and major spends on health care and the clean economy. But, tucked into the 255-page document are a series of smaller items you may have missed.
opinion | Don Martin's sorry-to-be-cynical prediction on the federal budget
The only thing most Canadians will remember about the budget this time next week is how the booze tax increase was reduced to two per cent from six, writes Don Martin in a column for CTVNews.ca.
RCMP interviewing Canadians held in detention camps in Syria: sources
CTV News has learned that RCMP officers are currently in northeast Syria, interviewing Canadians held in detention camps in order to bring them back to Canada. The three Mounties have so far interviewed only Canadian women in Al-Roj camp.
Actress Melissa Joan Hart describes helping children flee campus after Nashville school shooting
Actress Melissa Joan Hart says she was near Nashville's Covenant School soon after Monday's deadly shooting of six people, including three children, and helped some students get away from the scene.
‘I started breaking down:’ Friends remember 15-year-old homicide victim
A 15-year-old girl shot to death in the community of Martindale early Tuesday morning, has now been identified by friends and police as Sarah Alexis Jorquera.
Calgary archaeologist launches foundation to support female field researchers
A Calgary archaeologist wants to help more women get out in the field by launching the Fair Field Foundation, an organization to break barriers women often face.
Online video between Danielle Smith and Artur Pawlowski raises questions over interference
In an online video, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is heard speaking with outspoken Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski, creating questions about her influence on Alberta court cases.
Saskatoon police release video of 3 people placing 'large container' in dumpster where body was found
Saskatoon Police Service is asking for the public’s help in identifying three individuals they believe are connected to a suspicious death.
Dog that attacked five-year-old Saskatoon boy involved in three other attacks
CTV News has learned a dog that attacked a five-year-old boy last week had been declared dangerous in February 2022, but the city had lost track of the owner a year ago.
Saskatoon police charge 3 people with unlawful confinement following standoff
The Saskatoon police have charged three people for charges including unlawful confinement and sexual assault following a standoff in the Mount Royal neighbourhood Tuesday.
Evan Bray retiring as Chief of Regina Police Service after 28 years with RPS
Regina's Chief of Police Evan Bray has announced his retirement from policing, but said he plans to pursue other opportunities in the future.
Regina police watching for highly potent 'tranq dope' in local drug seizures
Police in Regina are on the lookout for xylazine, a dangerous animal tranquilizer spreading into Canada's illegal opioid supply.
Saskatchewan to spend $6 million for some hip and knee surgeries in Calgary
The Saskatchewan government is set to spend up to $6 million to send patients to Calgary for hip and knee surgeries.
N.S. mass shooting inquiry report must deliver 'clear commentary': family lawyer
A lawyer who represents Nova Scotia mass shooting victims' families said in an interview they are hoping "for clear commentary on what things went wrong and what things ought to have been done better or differently."
Cold front to sweep mix of snow, rain across the Maritimes Thursday
A low-pressure system moving north of the St. Lawrence River valley will sweep a cold front across the Maritimes on Thursday.
How Portapique residents past and present are dealing with reminders of the 2020 mass shooting
The eve of the release of the final report from the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting is a reminder for residents of Portapique of their small community’s traumatic past.
Toronto police officer accused of failing to properly investigate woman's 'repeated pleas' for help before her murder
A Toronto police officer is facing disciplinary charges after he allegedly failed to 'conduct a sufficient investigation' into a woman's 'repeated pleas' for help with an ex-boyfriend that she had come to fear, just days prior to her murder.
'What motivates someone to do this?' Meat left in Mississauga, Ont. parks in apparent attempts to feed wild animals
Large amounts of meat are being left in public parks across Mississauga in an apparent attempt to feed wild animals and officials say that they are growing increasingly concerned about the practice.
A rare weather phenomenon strikes southern Ontario again
Thundersnow has struck southern Ontario for a second time this month.
Bill 15: Quebec tables legislation to overhaul health system
The CAQ government has unveiled its long-promised plan to improve Quebec's public health network. Tabled at the Quebec legislature Wednesday by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Bill 15 promises a major shakeup.
'I lost a brother': Funeral held for teen who died in Old Montreal fire
Almost two weeks after his death, a funeral was held in Laval Wednesday for a teenager who died in the fire in Old Montreal.
Man who allegedly killed Quebec police officer had long history of violence, mental health issues: court docs
The man who allegedly killed a Quebec provincial police (SQ) officer on Monday had a long history of violence detailed in court documents. Sgt. Maureen Breau was fatally stabbed while trying to arrest a man on accusations of uttering threats in Louiseville near Trois-Rivieres. Two other officers then shot and killed the man.
LRT | Stage 2 of Ottawa LRT faces further delay
The long-awaited southern extension to Ottawa's light rail network is facing a further delay, a city committee heard Wednesday.
WEATHER | Cold front could bring brief burst of heavy snow Wednesday
Environment Canada says a sharp cold front is expected to move through eastern Ontario Wednesday, which could bring a blast of heavy snow.
Meet Zedd! CHEO's new therapeutic clown
CHEO introduced its new therapeutic clown to patients and the public on Wednesday. Zedd takes over for Mollypenny, who retired last year.
'Fairly emotional for everybody': Teen struck by LRT visits emergency crews who rescued him
Several weeks after a teen was stuck under an LRT train in Kitchener, he’s now up and walking and visited the emergency crews who helped rescue him.
Cambridge municipal election candidate suing city after names left off ballot
A retired political science professor says he was “stunned” by the way the Cambridge municipal election unfolded.
Businesses weigh in on government’s plan to reduce credit card fees
The federal government is touting plans to help small businesses by reducing credit card fees, but some local merchants say while they welcome the measure, the actual impact it will have on their operations will be minimal.
BREAKING | Robert Steven Wright found guilty in Renee Sweeney murder
CTV News has learned the jury in the Robert Steven Wright has found him guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Renee Sweeney in Sudbury on Jan. 27, 1998.
B.C. man pleads guilty to northern Ont. shooting, Crown drops attempted murder charge
A man who admitted to shooting up a home in Greater Sudbury in 2020 over a drug theft pled guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Driver caught travelling 200km/hr on major Ontario highway
A 20-year-old has been charged with careless driving after travelling double the speed limit on a major Ontario highway.
Manitobans should prepare for a gas price hike according to an expert
Come the weekend, Manitobans will be paying more for gas and the price could climb even higher in the coming weeks and months according to a gas expert.
Brandon pauses city plan open houses over 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour'
The City of Brandon has paused its public consultation on its 30-year plan for the city due to 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour' from some residents.
Missing teen possibly seen in Selkirk: RCMP
RCMP is asking for the public’s help to find a missing 15-year-old teenager from the RM of St. Clements, saying they’re concerned for her well-being.
'Something isn't working in the system’: VPD operation highlights concerning shoplifting trends
During a three-week operation dubbed Project Barcode, Vancouver police say they made 217 arrests and recovered nearly $80,000 in stolen merchandise.
Squamish Nation embarks on ambitious plan to become one of largest developers in Canada
The Squamish Nation announced Wednesday it intends to undertake comprehensive developments on 350-acres of land spread on several parcels in North and West Vancouver, Squamish and on the Sunshine Coast.
'She was a force against ableism': Tributes pour in after sudden death of former Paralympian Arley McNeney
B.C.-born former Paralympian Arley McNeney died suddenly last week, her family revealed Tuesday.
IIO investigating after man driving construction vehicle shot, seriously injured by police in Duncan, B.C.
A man was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a police shooting in Duncan, B.C., on Tuesday evening.
Police investigating 'targeted' attempted arson at home in Saanich
Police are investigating what they believe was a targeted arson attack at a home north of Victoria.
B.C. parents win battle to put son's Indigenous name on his birth certificate
After 13 months of fighting, the parents of a Campbell River, B.C., boy have received a birth certificate that accurately reflects the spelling of his name.