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Nenshi calls for more injection sites in Calgary

Despite a report saying safe needle injection sites in Alberta are in “chaos”, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling for more of the centres in his city.

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Despite a report saying safe needle injection sites in Alberta are in “chaos”, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling for more of the centres in his city.

“Helping people get healthy starts with keeping people alive. Calgary needs more locations and a better model to ensure treatment is available to people the moment they’re ready. Provincial funding to alleviate social disorder is also key.” Nenshi tweeted.

A report released Friday by a government-government appointed panel “found serious problems with supervised consumption services as they are currently being operated.”

“This report is a wake-up call for Alberta. Every one of us deserves to feel safe in our communities, and every Albertan struggling with addiction should be able to access the supports they need. We will consider this report, and all other relevant evidence, as we develop a comprehensive, long-term approach that works,” said Associate Minister of Mental Health an Addictions Jason Laun said.

But despite there being a “system of chaos” with Alberta’s seven injection sites, Nenshi called for more in Calgary. There is currently one in the city, located at the Sheldon Chumir health centre.

Neighbours in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood near the centre have reported an increase in crime in the area, which is now littered with dirty needles.

“The City is committed to doing its part to aid the continuum of care that those dealing with mental health and addictions issues require. I appreciate the Province’s commitment to transparency. We are looking forward to being active partners in any future decision making,” said Nenshi.

His response was met with anger from residents in the area.

“Put the facility in your back door you walk around with needles on your sidewalks @nenshi there has to be a better way to help drug addicts rather than feed the issue,” one resident called Sandy tweeted.

“Its always in someone elses neighborhood for these people. Unfortunately Sheldon chumir is in mine, and everyone here hates it,” tweeted another resident.

The report showed while no one has died in a safe injection site, deaths within 500 metres of one have gone up 64% to 46 since they opened.

The report talked about one site giving up to 500 needles a day to one client; children being pricked with discarded needles and human waste all around injection sites.

“There wasn’t a day that went by our team didn’t hear the word ‘feces,’” said Laun.

There were also incidents of site workers interfering with police trying to enforce the law.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Increased needle debris and deteriorating public safety around the sites were significant concerns raised during the town halls, through the surveys and in stakeholder meetings.
  • While there were no deaths recorded among people at the SCS sites, death rates in the immediate vicinity of the sites after the sites opened continued to increase along with province-wide rates of opioid deaths.
  • Opioid-related calls for emergency medical services also increased in the immediate vicinity following the opening of the sites.
  • Many people indicated they felt less safe in the areas surrounding the SCS sites after they opened.
  • Lack of focus on referrals to detoxification and treatment resources.
  • Inconsistent and often inaccurate classification of “overdose reversals.”
  • Substantial increases in the use of non-opioid substance use, specifically methamphetamines, leading to aggressive behaviour endangering public safety.

There are currently seven safe injection sites in Alberta – four in Edmonton, with Calgary, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie each having one.

The report said about 50% of site users are consuming meth, something which they weren’t designed to do.

The report said the Lethbridge site may be the busiest in the world and one of the costliest.

“While most of the other sites have a cost under $600 per unique client, the cost in Lethbridge is over five times that, at $3,270 per unique client. The Committee could not find any plausible explanation for this, and there was no mention of it by the Alberta Health management contact person who would have overseen this in the past.”

Crime in the area of the Lethbridge site was also mentioned by residents as a huge problem, with members of the government committee seeing it first hand.

“Committee members also observed what appeared to be drug trafficking
as well as prostitution.

“Another law enforcement officer stated that, ‘There has been attempts by the SCS staff to destroy video evidence. They had a pregnant lady have [a] miscarriage immediately after using their facility. They became offended when I asked what
their procedures were for pregnant women and filed a formal complaint.’”

Lethbridge residents also complained about needle garbage.

The committee noted one ARCHES representative said they give away 37,000 needles a month. The group claimed all but 400 had been accounted for.

“Given the directly observed residual level of needle debris around the site, however, this assertion does not appear plausible and appears to defy credulity.”

Numerous complaints were received by the Review Committee about how the Lethbridge site is operated.

“The Review Committee was also informed by ARCHES that it currently employs 174 persons working at the site. Putting this into context, at the time the Review Committee visited Lethbridge the site was seeing approximately 130-135 unique
users per day. At the same time, police in Lethbridge had 161 constables on staff.

“An ARCHES worker told the Committee that approximately 40 per cent of workers at the SCS are “addicts in recovery” themselves. There was no apparent concern about the associated occupational risk or relapse risk to those workers in recovery.”

The report will now go to the government who will decide what to do with each site on a city to city basis.

“I am open to how best make sense of this,” said Laun.’

The entire report can be read here.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Canada-Europe take action over COVID variant Omicron

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

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With the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC) named Omicron in South Africa, the Canadian government is taking steps to limit the risk to Canadians.

Travellers arriving from countries of concern within the last 14 days will be required to quarantine pending negative COVID-19 tests. Countries of concern include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

On Friday, Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government will impose five measures in an effort to limit its spread in Canada.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam took to Twitter on Saturday to share her concerns over the VOC.

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” wrote Tam.

The WHO has labelled Omicron as a variant of concern due to its high number of mutations and reports that early evidence suggests it could be more infectious than other variants.

Meanwhile, during a news conference on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people tested positive for the Omicron variant.

One case was identified in Brentwood, a town in southeastern England while the other case was located in the central city of Nottingham. Both individuals are linked and had travelled from southern Africa. The two individuals are self-isolating along with their households and authorities are working on contact tracing.

Johnson confirmed travellers arriving in England will be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative test result is provided. Those that test positive for the new variant will have to self-isolate, along with any of their close contacts, for 10 days regardless of vaccine status.

He also said masks will be required in shops and other public spaces and indicated they will “boost the booster campaign.”

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximize our defences,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the new rules will be reviewed in three weeks when scientists know more about the variant.

On Friday, the British government added Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to the country’s travel red list. By Saturday, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia were also added to the list.

Other countries are adding restrictions on travellers coming from various southern African countries including the US, Japan, Brazil, and Australia while cases have also been reported in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the Czech Republic have also reported suspected cases related to travellers arriving from South Africa.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Road closures as British Columbians brace for more rain

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday.

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As BC braces for additional rain, the government has ‘proactively’ closed a number of highways for travel.

“We are actively responding, monitoring and assessing the many highway closures due to flooding and will continue to do so as we work with local and emergency service partners,” said the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Safety is our top priority while we deal with a rapidly changing and difficult situation.”

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday. The ministry said the time and duration of the closures will be weather-dependent.

“The highway infrastructure in these areas is extremely vulnerable following recent storms, and more heavy rain in the forecast poses an additional risk,” said the ministry in a press release.

“The closures of these three highways will be re-evaluated on Sunday morning, with the highways reopened when it is safe to do so.”

The release said Highway 1 will be closed between Popkum and Hope on Saturday afternoon as BC Hydro plans a reservoir release, “crucial to protect the Jones Lake Reservoir, which is also being affected by the heavy rains.”

The release explains the reservoir release will discharge water towards areas of Highway 1 that were affected during the November 14 storm.  

“This additional flow – combined with the increased precipitation and already high stream flows – poses a risk of impact to Highway 1 in the Laidlaw area.”

The ministry is bracing for further damage to Highway 1 in this area and said the reopening time cannot be determined at this stage but will be assessed by crews “when it is safe to do so.”

Highway 7 between Mission and Hope remains open with travel restrictions in place. Essential purposes for travel are defined in the travel restrictions order through the Emergency Program Act

Weather statements are in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Squamish to Whistler and the Sunshine Coast into next week. Storms are expected to bring more rain which has resulted in high streamflow advisories for all regions of the coast by the River Forecast Centre.

Ongoing road and travel updates are available on the ministry’s website.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Bill to aid jurors traumatized by testimony up for vote … again

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling.”

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For the third time in three years, legislators will attempt to pass an aid bill for jurors traumatized by graphic testimony in criminal courts.

“When we ask citizens to be a juror we don’t ask them to be a victim,” said Quebec Senator and bill sponsor Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

“There is no excuse not to adopt that bill.” 

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling,” said Blacklock’s Reporter.

Two identical bills, S-207 and C-417, lapsed in the last two Parliaments.

“That kind of bill should be a government bill, not a private bill,” said Boisvenu.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of private interest. It’s a matter of national interest.”

In 2017, the Commons justice committee recommended the Criminal Code amendment after hearing testimony from former jurors who said they quit jobs, suffered marriage breakdown and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being compelled to watch crime scene videos and hear testimony from coroners.

“Everyone’s mental health matters,” Ontario Senator Lucie Moncion said Thursday.

“Yet from a legal point of view, jurors are part of a special category of people who are denied complete health care. The secrecy rule prohibits a juror from disclosing information related to deliberations to anyone including a health care professional. This needs to change.”

Moncion was a juror in a 1989 murder trial and said the experience left her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“They show you the whole autopsy,” said Moncion.

“It was very difficult. This is still very difficult for me.”

Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a member of the 2017 Commons justice committee that recommended reforms, said delays were inexcusable.

“It should have been a no-brainer for the government to have brought this bill forward,” said Cooper indicating the bill has been “studied thoroughly.”

“There have literally been no arguments tendered against this piece of legislation.”

Cooper, in 2019, sponsored a similar bill – C-417 – that lapsed. MPs at the time noted U.S. jurors were free to discuss their experience with friends, family, psychiatrists or media.

“In the United States once a trial is over jurors are generally free to discuss the events of the trial and jury deliberations unless a specific court order bars them from doing so,” said Ontario Liberal MP Arif Virani, then-parliamentary secretary for justice.

“What that means is that jurors in the United States can talk with nearly anyone about juror deliberations including a talk show host on national television or across the Internet. This approach, which offers limited protection for juror privacy, is significantly different from the Canadian model.”

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