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'I'm dismayed, I'm angry': Disappointment after judge dismisses injunction against Alberta government

Needles and supplies ready to be used by clients at the supervised consumption site at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre. (CREDIT: Alberta Health Services)

“Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe it, I’m dismayed, I’m angry, I’m worried at how this will affect people,” Moms Stop the Harm Society co-founder Petra Schulz told CityNews Calgary.

Harm reduction advocates are looking at what to do next as a court has thrown out an injunction filed against the Alberta government aimed at stopping it from introducing new rules which require supervised consumption site operators to ask clients for their healthcare number.

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“We went forward with this legal action because we knew these regulations would harm people, we feared these regulations would cost lives. So, having them move forward is very, very disheartening,” Schulz added.

The new SCS rules were supposed to come into effect late last year, however, they were postponed while the injunction request was being heard.

It was co-filed by Moms Stop the Harm Society, along with Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society.

Their goal was to have the new policies postponed until after their legal case against the Alberta government could go to court, which Schulz estimates will be in the next year or two.

However, Justice R. Paul Belzil ruled against the injunction on Monday.

“Supervised consumption site services save lives, and they should be as low barrier as possible. They should be where people can feel comfortable to go and receive support, and that real lives of real people that are loved — that are missed — are at stake,” Schulz said.

Schulz lost her youngest child, Danny, to an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2014.

“We have evidence and we have spoken to people who told us they will not seek out supervised consumption services if they have to provide identification, including healthcare numbers,” she added.

“There was research done on this topic as well, and the findings show that over half of those surveyed would either be hesitant to use the service or not use it at all.”

However, the government says while it will be required that SCS operators request healthcare numbers and help clients apply for one, you will not be required to show it or have one to receive services.

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“To be clear, there is no requirement for clients to provide ID. Upon intake, clients will be asked to provide their personal health number,” Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis’ office said in a statement to CityNews.

“If they don’t have one, they will be supported in getting one. Nobody will be turned away while they are in the process of obtaining a PHN. In addition, if a client refuses to provide a PHN they will not be denied service.”

Petra says that the legislation doesn’t specify that, and it only makes an exception for clients who are in the process of receiving a healthcare number.

“What the government is saying is not actually written in the act, which is problematic in itself,” Schulz said.

“During the court case, when the judge raised that question, the response of the legal team for the government was that the act was silent on this point.

“That statement the government is making is not backed up by their own document.”

Ellis’ office points out the judge deemed Moms Stop the Harm Society would not be granted public interest status in the injunction.

Schulz says they’re looking at possibly appealing the injunction decision.