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Northreach eyes apolitical conclusion to consumption site review

In the shadow of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney calling safe consumption sites ‘NDP drug sites’, the Executive Director of Northreach Society firmly believes the panel in charge of the review sees things apolitically.

“They talked to us about our relationship with the services that connect people to detox and treatment, as well as opioid dependency programs,” says Melissa Byers. [They also] asked us what our mitigation strategies were if something were to come up.”

Introduced back in August 2019, the panel had the mandate to look at stats including crime rates, needle debris, residential property values, and proposals for solutions to address the impacts of the sites.

Byers says during the review period in the city, the questions asked by those on the panel went far beyond just the use and users of the safe consumption site and hopes the same thorough evaluation which went into the process is evident in the final report.

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“The official tent city was well and alive, they also got to see a picture of homelessness in our community and understand it from a larger systems perspective, [including] asking us housing options for people in Grande Prairie, and the limited housing options available.”

“I think the panel probably did a good job checking into all the stats and understanding the factors that go beyond personal opinion, so I don’t think it’s disheartening, I think the report will point to the evidence and we will see what that says,”

Lead by former Edmonton Police Chief Ron Knecht, the review panel also spoke with members of the public, as part of an open house in September. While it was initially expected the report would be finished by the end of 2019, the results and analysis have yet to be made public.

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