Yesterday, someone wrote a letter to the editor of the Lethbridge Herald. This person is dealing with drug addiction and was providing some insight from that perspective on the benefits of the supervised consumption site, as well as addressing some myths.
Naturally, the online version of the letter received negative feedback, many with the same, tired myths and rhetoric. I thought I’d address some of them here.
The quoted material is taken from one comment, the longest. I have not corrected the original spelling or punctuation.
“Prior to the SCS, the addicts here shot up wherever and whenever they wished. After the SCS the same is occurring but now because we have attracted more addicts, we now have more shooting up then attend SCS.”
This wording makes it seem as though the number of people using drugs in Lethbridge was stable prior to the SCS opening up. But drug usage has increased in Lethbridge consistently over the last 5 years before, and the SCS opened just last year. Drug usage was already rising prior to last year, and there is no evidence that the SCS accelerated that rise. If we do have more people using drugs in Lethbridge, it wouldn’t be that surprising, but that would’ve been the case even if the SCS hadn’t opened.
“What we now have is 300-500 addicts visiting the SCS ( assume our original 300-500) and the new 1000 NOT visiting the SCS.”
I don’t know where they get the idea that there are 1,000 people in Lethbridge using drugs but not in the SCS. How do you even keep track of that number? Is there a special census taker going around looking for people taking drugs? Are they all over the entire city at once to make sure they capture everyone in their enumeration, even in private homes?
“Residents still find needles all over the place”
This is just plain false. I, personally, have found a single needle in the year and a half that the SCS has been opened. If needles are all over the place, surely, I should be seeing more than that.
“find more people than before the SCS shooting up in bathroom stalls, malls, stores, behind stores etc etc.”
I doubt that data exists that has measure this empirically, so I’m taking this claim with a grain of salt. Even if it’s true, that number would be *much* higher if the SCS wasn’t open. There have been roughly 300,000 instances of drug use at the SCS since it opened, about 660 per day. If the SCS wasn’t opened, those instances would’ve been in public. The increase this writer claims has occurred would be significantly higher.
“Because Spearman gave up way too early and decided he would use his massive intelligence in this field and volunteer us as the “Regional Hub for addicts””
This is also just plain false. Chris Spearman never volunteered Lethbridge as a regional hub for drug addiction. First, the SCS was established through applications to the federal government and through Alberta Health Services. And second, Lethbridge was already experiencing the drug crisis at disproportionate amounts prior to the SCS opening. That’s what happens when you are the third largest city in the province but lack the treatment facilities that the two larger cities have.
“we have garnered about 1000 new visitors to Lethbridge all having your “dependency”.”
Again, I don’t know where the writer got this number, nor how it was calculated. This number seems difficult to determine.
“Now its well known that the 1000 that appeared did not come with a dowry from daddy, nor did they come here as self made millionaires.”
Is it? Well known how? Was there a study done? Was the data published somewhere? Or are you referring to what people simply believe?
“So this 1000, plus the ones who visit SCS all need money.”
Yes. Just like everyone else in the city. We live in a capitalist society, and it requires us to have money, for food, shelter, clothing, and even drugs.
“Where do you think they are getting it from”
Some of them will use money from their jobs. Some may borrow it from friends or family. Some may pawn their possessions. Some may steal.
“is that just a sidebar to your demand that Lethbridge residents just surrender their money, property, downtown, piece and serenity, and anything else a Meth Head needs?”
Of course not. But I’m glad your recognize that this is a poverty issue. If we can implement solutions that address poverty, we can reduce drug-related crime, especially property crime.
“Now let me explain why we do not want an SCS IN OUR CITY. First of All Patricia, if you frequent the SCS as you do now, then you could continue to do so but just NOT IN OUR CITY.”
If Lethbridge indeed is a regional hub for drug use, then how does it make sense to move the SCS outside of Lethbridge? As you point out earlier, not every person who uses drugs in Lethbridge does so at the SCS, and it’s already here in the city. Move it out of the city, and usage will drop. The location of the SCS was determined, in part, because of its proximity to the highest concentration of public drug usage. Getting rid of it will not stop people from using in the city.
“You could seek treatment if you want to or, continue to destroy your own life, that’s entirely up to you! But we want to remove your option of destroying our community, our homes and our property. So its not that we do not want you getting help, we just don’t want you getting it in our city.”
If you’re serious about reducing drug-related crime, I hope you’re advocating for solutions that prevent drug-related crime. Here are 5:
- Universal basic income
- Decriminalize all drugs
- Transfer funding for drug enforcement to treatment and prevention programmes
- Implement universal pharmacare
- Make drugs available in pharmacies and covered by pharmacare
This will put put drug dealers out of business, it will improve the quality of the drug supply, it will prevent more deaths, it will prevent more addictions, and it will reduce crime.
Increasing law enforcement certainly won’t work. We’ve been trying it for decades, and drug crime is worse now. Lethbridge Police Services receives 1 out of every 5 dollars of the municipal operating budget, receiving the most tax dollars of any single city-funded entity.
Law enforcement is reactive. We need proactive solutions. We need solutions that will finally address the issues behind the drug crisis.
“No one owes you a living, no one owes you their property, or their lives, because you chose to be a drug addict!”
No one chooses to be addicted. Heck, not even everyone who gets addicted chooses the drugs that start them on the path to addiction. Some people are prescribed those drugs by a licensed physician. And they take them without even realizing that they could become addicted to them.
This is the problem with people who are opposed to the SCS. To them it’s all about choice: people choose to be addicted, people choose to be poor, people choose to steal. And because they steal, they have less moral fortitude than the people criticizing them. And that’s why they feel entitled to treat them inhumanely.
“Now, before you suggest I do not know drug addicts, I have been around them (by employment) longer than you have been alive (a guess). “A choice was made by you, “I will stick this drug in my arm or sniff this up my nose”. I was around these people in every port,”
Every port? Like in the entire world? This writer has been to every port in the entire world? Canada alone has nearly 250 ports. This seems unlikely.
“I chose NOT to stick anything in my arm or sniff anything up my nose!”
It’s an easy choice to make when you don’t have an addiction.
“Now the next statement is most important, re-read it twice if you do not understand it:
“Society is more than willing to help but, Not at the cost of the society that’s helping”. If you do not understand that, then there is no hope because you obviously believe society owes you, and if it means the destruction of our society to get what you want, well that’s okay, or, do you think differently?”
It’s possible to address addiction responsibly, meaningfully, and successfully, without society needed to be destroyed in the process. Unfortunately, none of our governments are willing to do what it takes to address the causes of the drug crisis.
“The SCS should be in the region but should be on the border with the Blood Reserve.”
This makes no sense. No one will use it. It would be in the middle of the prairie (or on the bank of a river). And we will just get an increase of public drug usage in Lethbridge, as well as an increase in overdose deaths.
“Housing facilities should be set up and detox/intox as well.”
This is a point you and I agree on. These are facilities Lethbridge sorely lacks.
“Then you, and the rest of “our” society would be on the same page. But if you think you will get law abiding people to agree to an SCS, I think you are barking up the wrong tree.”
Law-abiding people already agree to the SCS. The hundreds that showed up to the counter rally. The hundreds that have shared my pro-SCS posts. The hundreds that have thanked me in person and through messages.
“I have been around drug addicts for over 50 years of my life. I have seen these Consumption sites all around the world”
Sure you have. Just like you’ve been to all the ports in the world.
“and the one common theme of an SCS is it creates the opportunity for like minded drug addicts who steal and mug for a living to meet up and co-ordinate that function.”
Nah. They can do that already. Like, literally, there are plenty of places for people to meet. They don’t need a consumption site to make plans. The one common them of consumption sites all around the world is that they save lives and reduce public drug usage. They improve the health and safety of the community, as well as that of those who use drugs.
“Now if the brilliance in City Hall had decided to learn that early perhaps we would not be here, but they know everything, so we are where we are!”
No, we’re where we are because despite knowing drug usage was on the rise in the province (and the country for that matter), governments refused to respond to it broadly. That’s why, in Lethbridge, we still lack the health care services we need to both prevent and treat addiction.
“You said it your self, addicts go to and use the SCS site,”
Well, yeah. That’s its point.
“however you incorrectly suggest that means they do not do drugs elsewhere.”
She never suggested this at all.
“The facts are they are doing drugs everywhere in this city!”
No, they’re not. No one is doing drugs in my house. Or in the aisle of the grocery store when I’m shopping. Or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office when I’m there. Or at Casa while I’m waiting for my children’s music lessons to finish. Or nearly everywhere I go in this city.
“Dealers are now more plentiful because of Spearmans narrow minded thinking”
Nope. They’re more plentiful because of supply and demand. As more people get addicted, the demand for drugs goes up. As the demand goes up, so does the supply. As the supply goes up, so does the number of people distributing the supply. It’s basic economics, and has nothing to do with the mayor.
“I am a guy who believes in every other aspect Spearman has been good for this city but he has built his legacy, for one stupid uniformed decision he will go down in history as “the Mayor that killed Lethbridge!” He will be remembered by the residents for nothing else! Unfortunately, rightfully so, out of all the fiasco’s I have seen in Scotland, Ireland, England, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Portugal, Eastern Seaboard of USA, Lessor and Greater Antilles, Mexico, Rio, etc etc…. Lethbridge is “the greatest fiasco”, led by the clueless, executed by the uninformed. Harsh but true.”
Spearman is not killing Lethbridge. If Lethbridge is being killed, why is it the top city in Alberta for business investment? The uninformed are people like you, fuelled by ideology, myth, feelings, and rhetoric.
“So here is what “your SCS” did for the residents of Lethbridge. It attracted 1000-1200 addicts that were not residents of Lethbridge to our city through clueless policy and immunity from police arrest. That number will balloon too 1700+ by fall of 2020.”
This is simply unprovable.
“Why did they come? Lethbridge declared that if you had illegal drugs on you and it was for personal use, you could do so unimpeded by the LAPD.”
Well, that’s probably because the LAPD is 2,300 kilometres away.
“Elsewhere you would have been arrested/harrassed and your high would have been ruined!”
This just isn’t true. There is an exemption in place, but it’s not for the entire city, and that federal exemption applies to all consumption sites in Canada, not just Lethbridge. Ottawa, for example, has four. Why isn’t this the case there then, since they have so many?
“so they came in droves!”
“It did not “solve” OUR problem because a smaller percentage of the drug addicts now use the SCS then were on the streets before the SCS!”
This makes no sense. The people who use the SCS make up a smaller percentage than the people who were on the streets prior to the SCS? What were the people on the streets a percentage of?
“It appears to have solved YOUR problem but not Lethbridge’s.”
The SCS isn’t designed to solve the drug crisis. It’s designed to keep people alive and reduce the risk to public health and safety. Hats off to the ARCHES staff though, who have taken on more responsibility than they had originally planned, and are doing far more to help people who are addicted than just keeping them alive. Even so, without the other services you mentioned earlier, the drug crisis isn’t going anywhere soon. Even if we get rid of the SCS.
“So needles, muggings, thefts, B&Es rose because we became the GOTO place for addicts because of Spearman’s/Phillips inability to think farther than next week.”
This is plainly false. Crime in Lethbridge has been climbing for years. The SCS opened during the rise in crime rate. Even so, crime has been rising it a slower rate since the SCS came in. To say that it’s responsible for crime is just ignoring the data.
“Now Bourgue/ARCHES will argue the comment but I have seen that argument before as well, its not valid and never has been valid.”
Facts and science have always been valid, even if they don’t prove your feelings.
“Crime Index Severities are rarely skewed by petty thefts which tends to replace for the first few years, crimes of a higher severity ranking but that all departs when you enter the third phase of this fiasco which starts next summer.”
What on earth is this person babbling about? How does anyone take seriously anything in this comment?
“Trust me on this one, SCS is an enabler, they are the gasoline on the fire that is to be lit this summer.”
SCS doesn’t enable. People used drugs before they opened. People use drugs without it. And people would use drugs if it shut down. People use drugs independent of the SCS.
“Bourgue and Manning will continue to use pie and squiggly line charts to say they are not, but they are and they know it! Why? Because I know it, been there, done this, got 31 Tee Shirts, before either of them were born!”
They know they’re enabling because the writer knows they’re enabling? How is their knowledge tied up in his knowledge? And what exactly is “this” that he supposedly did and got 31 t-shirts for before Bourque and Manning were born? Opened and ran a consumption site?
“SCS now has the equivalent of the 300 users that the Chief of Police would not lock up. However based on his STUPIDITY we now have 1000-1200 more and growing every day that do not use the SCS.”
Again, no proof of this. You can’t keep tabs on how many people are using drugs in Lethbridge. It’d be a logistical nightmare.
“Here is the bottom line:
MOVE THE SCS OUT OF OUR CITY! You will still have access to services but ruining Lethbridge, as a City, will be removed from you.”
Again, no one will use it, and the problems you’re complaining about will worsen.
“Question for the Drug Users of Lethbridge :
“Do you think the DTES of Vancouver is a Ghetto because it was always destined to become one or, because they plopped all the services for drug addicts there 26 years ago?” Simple question, give it some thought.”
East Hastings is the way it is because of poverty, because we place enforcement higher than prevention and treatment, because we treat addiction as a crime instead of as a disease.
“In fact I encourage LETHBRIDGE give it some thought because once Spearman gets his Detox/Intox, Lodgings, etc…we are the DTES!!”
Oh, please. Lethbridge will be nothing like East Hastings.
“So is it “your dream and vision” that downtown Lethbridge become another DTES (Downtown East side)? Because its not the residents of Lethbridges dream! If Spearman/Phillips get their way, we will be, “absolutely guaranteed” and I mean ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED” we will be a DTES in 5 years. There is nothing they can do to stop it, if they continue down this path, period! Change or suffer the consequences of your foolishness, Now! Write that down, because its FACT!”
It’s not a fact. It’s a made up claim based on your feelings.
“PPS- You opened your letter with “I am sick and tired of hearing that the SCS facility is doing nothing but bad things to this community.” Do you know what I am sick and tired of? I am sick and tired of “Users and Non Profits” that make millions of dollars running these sites, telling me they do not ruin a city, when I have watched them ruin 31 cities before, that’s what I am sick and tired of!”
You have not seen consumption sites ruin 31 cities.
“I am tired of Council’s and Mayor’s and elected MLAs/MPs who consult with experts that have destroyed their own cities, and assume they are “truly experts or for that matter even have the slightest clue” , then do as the experts have done, and commence ruining our city?”
Our city is not being ruined by experts and politicians. Well, not in the way you think they are anyhow.
“I joined the Navy in the 60’s and let me tell you this so you can write it down in your forecast for Lethbridge. We are about 5 years from Rock Bottom on what the 2000 addicts will do to this city.”
What does being in the navy have to do with this prediction. Let alone enlisting 50 years ago? And where did the 2,000 number come from? And if you truly want fewer people with additions in Lethbridge, then I hope you’re putting as much effort into petitioning governments for treatment and prevention services as you are into typing angry comments at 6:00 in the morning.
“In 5 years from now Residents would give a testicle/ovary to be where we are today, thats how bad this City will get.”
No, it won’t.
“If a drastic reversal in approach is not taken in the next 4 months, its over!”
Agreed. Well, on the drastic reversal in approach, anyhow. See my 5 recommendations above.
“Thanks goes directly to Spearman, Council, Phillips and Fitzpatrick. I don’t blame Bourgue and Manning, all they did was see a cash cow that could be hidden under the guise of a “non-profit” while working the “Caring Lethbridge Card”!”
You know how non-profits work, right? They don’t run a profit. How can it be a cash cow if their expenses use up all their revenue?
This sort of rhetoric just goes to show how misinformed people are on this topic. They are completely ignorant to the science, data, and research on harm reduction. They ignore the facts of crime rates in favour of the impressions of their friends. The think that safety is important only for those who already have it, that health is important only for those who already have it.
If we’re going to see some real change, if we’re going to see some solutions that do more than just the superficial, there will need to be drastic action. And dealing with facts instead of feelings is a good place to start.
If you found this response helpful, please become a supporter for as little as $1/month. It will help me take time to develop other responses like this in the future.
Support this story
- 177 people sent me a one-time donation.
- 191 people send me a donation every month.
- 294 people receive my monthly newsletter.