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Drug Sites Are Not The Answer

Winnipeg Drug sites are not the answer, they are a bad idea.
Winnipeg Drug sites are not the answer

Premier Wab Kinew's recent directive to establish a supervised consumption site in downtown Winnipeg has sparked a crucial debate about the most effective way to address addiction in our city. While some argue that these sites are a compassionate response to addiction, we must take a closer look at the evidence from other cities before proceeding.

Over the past five years, the track record of supervised consumption sites in saving lives has been questionable at best. Advocates of these policies often tout them as a compassionate approach to addiction, but the reality, as seen in Vancouver, is far from that ideal.

Vancouver, a pioneer in North America in establishing such sites, has witnessed a devastating increase in drug deaths over the years. In 2003, when the first site opened, the drug death rate stood at 4.6 per 100,000 people. In 2022, this rate had skyrocketed to an alarming 42.7 per 100,000. Vancouver's experience is not an isolated one; other cities like Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle have also tried and failed with similar policies.

In contrast, the Government of Alberta took a different approach in 2019 by freezing funding for new supervised consumption sites while reviewing the impact of existing ones on their host communities. The results were damning. These sites have shown an abysmal record in moving drug users toward treatment and recovery programs, leaving areas like Vancouver's east side overrun with homeless individuals struggling with addiction and mental health issues. This, in turn, creates dangerous environments for neighbors, communities, and small businesses.

Proponents of these sites often argue that crime rates in their vicinity remain unaffected. However, Alberta's report contradicts this claim, showing that overdose deaths, opioid-related emergency calls, and crime rates increased alongside these sites, along with the proliferation of needle hazards and disorder in surrounding communities.

Funding sites where fellow Canadians continue to struggle with addiction may not be the compassionate way forward. The result has been the emergence of tent cities as a consequence of this failed experiment. Instead, we should adopt a humane approach by allocating resources to fund rehabilitation centers.

Alberta has heeded the advice of health officials and communities and has taken a more compassionate path. The government has invested in six residential treatment facilities across the province. While BC pursues drug decriminalization, Alberta prioritizes treating and supporting the recovery of our loved ones.

One such facility, the Red Deer Recovery Community, serves as an exemplar. With separate wings for women and men, it provides a safe and supportive environment for addiction recovery. At a cost of $4 million annually, this investment pales in comparison to the thousands of dollars per day spent on addicts in emergency rooms ill-equipped to aid long-term recovery.

The Red Deer facility embraces a long-term approach to treatment, allowing residents to remain for up to a year, with the ultimate goal of drug-free reintegration into society. This approach contrasts with "harm reduction" policies that facilitate drug use, only offering minimal referrals to rehabilitation. At the Red Deer Centre, residents are supported through withdrawal symptoms while actively working toward a life free from drugs.

Our duty as a society is to provide our most vulnerable citizens with the resources they need to heal and return to their communities and loved ones. Drugs are not the solution. The failed experiment in Vancouver should serve as a stark warning for Manitoba. Let's choose compassion and prioritize the recovery of our fellow citizens over offering them drugs and leaving them to perish on our streets.


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