Council to consider motion on safe injection site

Coun. Evert Botha speaks to reporters after introducing his motion to council on Monday.

Councillor Evert Botha has introduced a motion supporting a bid for a supervised injection site in Prince Albert.

The motion will be debated during an upcoming council meeting.

The key passage, as outlined by Botha on Monday, reads as follows:

“That the council and mayor forward correspondence to the Saskatchewan ministries of health, justice and social services and to Health Canada highlighting the need for a more integrated approach to harm reduction including, but not limited to, a medically supervised injection facility.”

The motion would also see council forward “any current or future concerns with respect to public health or safety” to the province, and would call on the federal and provincial governments to fund the project “without an increase in costs to the city’s citizens.”

An application to open a supervised injection site requires a letter expressing council’s view on the matter, which Botha said he hopes to see councillors compose as they debate his motion. According to conditions set down by Ottawa, the application will also need to include letters from the provincial ministers of justice and health, as well as Police Chief Troy Cooper.

In his speech, Botha admitted that supervised injection sites are “a thorny issue.” He has argued that such a facility would reduce crime, prevent the spread of infectious disease, take needles off the street and help place drug users in closer contact with counselling.

But others, particularly Mayor Dionne, have opposed the plan, calling for an expansion in addictions counselling instead.

On Monday, Dionne cut Botha off as the councillor attempted to defend his motion.

“I’m not asking for a debate tonight,” the mayor said.

After Monday’s council session, Dionne called arguments that a safe injection site will get needles off the street are false and “misleading.” He also said he prefers to wait for larger cities to blaze the trail, rather than making Prince Albert a “guinea pig.”

The mayor said he will not attempt to pressure other councillors to oppose the motion, but will vote against it himself.

For more on this story, please see the Feb. 15 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.