Edmonton

Edmonton safe injection sites set to face legal challenge

Chinatown and Area Business Association will ask the federal court to quash the exemption granted under a federal drug statute to three sites in the Central McDougall and McCauley neighbourhoods at a hearing set for Dec. 10.

Chinatown and Area Business Association launched challenge in Nov. 2017

Chinatown and Area Business Association will ask a federal court to quash exemptions granted to three supervised injection sites in Edmonton. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Edmonton's supervised injection sites will face a legal challenge in court next month.

On Dec. 10, Chinatown and Area Business Association will ask the federal court to quash the exemption granted under a federal drug statute to three sites in the Central McDougall and McCauley neighbourhoods.

The association filed an application for judicial review of the matter in November 2017. It wants the court to return the exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor for reconsideration.

The association called the process "procedurally deficient from the outset," in a document outlining its arguments filed on April 26.

In particular, the association said it wasn't properly consulted and claims the decision to cluster the sites in the same area was "untested and unproven."

Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton (AMSISE) — a coalition of community, medical and academic representatives — received the exemption to operate the three sites in October 2017.

"We are not able to comment on the details of the ongoing court proceedings," said Elliott Tanti, a spokesperson for AMSISE.

"We look forward to presenting our case in court on December 10th."

The supervised injection site at Boyle McCauley Health Centre opened this month. Boyle Street Community Services and the George Spady centre launched their operations in March and April respectively.

By the end of August, the sites reported nearly 15,000 services visits from more 711 people, according to a city report. Staff had reversed 180 overdoses.

The three community sites are open at various times to provide 24-coverage throughout the week.

A fourth site at the Royal Alexandra Hospital reserved for inpatients is not included in the court challenge.

The association claims in court filings that the three clustered supervised injection sites "can reasonably be expected to bring opioid users into these neighborhoods." It points to public health data that shows most fentanyl deaths occur outside the downtown core.

report from Alberta Heath found 41 of the city's 148 opioid overdose deaths last year happened in Eastwood, an area that captures McCauley, Boyle Street and Alberta Avenue.

As of Aug. 12, 115 people have died in Edmonton from fentanyl related poisoning this year.  

Nathan Whitling, the lawyer for AMSISE, tweeted out news of the hearing on Thursday.

"Given the importance of the free service provided by the Sites to our community, we act for the Sites pro bono," he said

The Chinatown and Area Business Association did not respond to a request for comment.