Proponents of a new long-term drug treatment centre in St. James brought together experts from treatment facilities, city councillors, real estate experts and even former MP Shelly Glover to answer questions about how it would work.
About 200 people crammed into Sturgeon Heights Community Centre on Tuesday night to find out more about a proposed addictions treatment centre in their area and air their concerns.
The meeting became tense at times, as opponents and supporters shouted over one another.
The Bruce Oake Foundation is proposing a 50-bed treatment facility at the site of the former Vimy Arena. The arena closed several years ago and was declared surplus by the city.
The proposed recovery centre is named after Bruce Oake, who died from a drug overdose more than six years ago. Sports broadcaster Scott Oake, his father, says the centre is badly needed.
"You know, lives are being lost on a daily basis, and we constantly hear about fentanyl, carfentanil, naloxone, Narcan, but the word that's most often missing from the conversation is treatment," Oake said.
Residents raised concerns about everything from how the surrounding green space would be affected to property values and how patients would be monitored. Many said they'd rather see the site be used for recreation.
Coun. Shawn Dobson and MLA Steven Fletcher have both said they don't want the facility in their area. Dobson has accused Mayor Brian Bowman of making a secret deal with the province to turn the site over to the Bruce Oake Foundation without consulting with the community.
But a spokesperson for the mayor said Dobson was informed on Oct. 29, shortly after the province told the city it was interested in partnering on the site. No deal has been made and consultations and a council vote would be part of any rezoning process, the spokesperson said.
Glover, a Winnipeg police officer before she entered politics, attempted to assuage the concerns of some residents.
"These folks are mad right now at the city, not at the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre."
The city has yet to produce a report on whether the Vimy Arena site should be transferred to the province so the proposal can go ahead.
That report could land at city hall as early as January and would need to go through several votes by committees and council before it was approved.
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