Candidates for mayor demand to remove supervised injection sites “from Chinatown”
Seven people trying to become Edmonton’s next mayor clashed in another forum Tuesday night – this one focused on “Chinatown’s problems” – a term coined by the evening’s moderator.
Former Mayor Bill Smith said Chinatown was gravely concerned about petty and violent crimes, which he said are “made worse” by the presence of supervised injection sites.
He asked the candidates how, and not if, they would remove all the sites in Chinatown.
“With the three injection sites, in close proximity in a community, it’s really a big mistake. No one would put up with this anywhere else in town. They threw it here in Chinatown and I hope the mayor takes care of it, ”Smith said in an interview.
The event was held at a busy restaurant on 97 Street and hosted by the Chinatown & Area Business Association and the Chinese Benevolent Association.
Mayoral candidates Amarjeet Sohi, Mike Nickel, Michael Oshry, Cheryll Watson, Rick Comrie, Kim Krushell and Diana Steele were all in attendance.
Each candidate was asked individually how they would remove the injection sites.
“It is not compassionate to let these people continue to walk the streets. She is broken. These people are broken. They need treatment for trauma and drug addiction, ”Nickel said, without directly addressing the issue of removing the sites.
Mike Nickel at the Mayor’s Forum. Tuesday, September 14, 2021 (Sean Amato / CTV News Edmonton)
“You can build more housing if you want, but that doesn’t get people off the streets where they need trauma and drug addiction treatment. It’s a long-term solution, ”he said.
He added that he would not “fund the police” nor provide that funding for social supports.
Oshry spoke of his pledge to build 1,000 supportive homes and convert old buses to provide showers and toilets in the downtown area.
He wants to add police officers to Chinatown and distribute supportive housing units more evenly across the city.
Oshry has also not made a commitment to remove all sites.
“(Drug addiction) is not a personality defect, it is a medical condition and they need support… that being said, having a focus in a neighborhood is not appropriate. My idea would be to have a location in the city and then move them around the city, ”Oshry said.
None of the applicants suggested specific alternative sites.
Krushell said she was open to relocation of sites – but not because of crime. She thinks sites need to be expanded to provide better services.
“Harm reduction sites save lives, but what I’m hearing… it doesn’t make sense to concentrate injection sites in one place. So what I’m asking is that we look at the locations and look at where the real needs are, ”she said.
Sohi said he would work to convince other levels of government to invest in supportive housing and addiction support.
“I hear you. I know these issues have affected you, your businesses, your lives and your security. And you have more on your shoulders, the burden is unreasonable,” he told the room.
Watson said she spoke to social agencies who didn’t think the sites should be centered in Chinatown.
“My commitment is to work in collaboration with these agencies to find the right neighborhoods in our city to distribute these services,” she promised.
A Report 2020 released by an Alberta government committee found that 911 calls generally increased near supervised injection sites, except in Edmonton.
Supervised injection sites “help save lives and build safer communities,” according to the Alberta Health Services website.
Edmonton’s election is October 18.