Our society’s rules are based on values, and so it is in this vein that we should be critical of vices. The harm-reduction arguments in favour of safe-injection sites (where users can access the paraphernalia required to shoot up heroin) makes some sense, but I have issues with tax dollars going to drug use. On this issue, I am not going to come to a hard conclusion one way or another, but I will provide some observations as to the downside of this idea. Also, the City is not properly consulting the communities and is only offering a band-aid solution to a greater problem.
The provincial government, in cahoots with City Council, has identified four sites for sanctioned heroin use in Edmonton. Consider the property values in these neighbouhoods permanently destroyed; so much for the once-possible gentrification of the McCauley and Boyle Street areas. What about Chinatown? Many of the residents in this neighbourhoods are opposed to the plan. Many of the residents were not consulted.
I have stated before that Edmonton wants to (prematurely) be like large metropolitan cities, as evidenced in many civic priorities. Safe-injection sites are another example of us trying to be cool like Vancouver. I honestly think that this is one reason why these facilities are being advocated. Vancouver is different. Vancouver is always warm and draws upon a large transient population. In Edmonton, despite our complexity, we do not have the same issues they do. Vancouver has one sanctioned safe-injections site; four are proposed for Edmonton. Whatever happened to the concept of a pilot project?
I am aware that the personal stories of drug users are full of hardship and sorrow, and these people need help, but do they need a government tourniquet to prep their veins for another dose? What else could the government do for them? Why not use these spaces to provide more homeless shelters and services to our vulnerable populations? What are the chances that a homeless person will go into a safe-injection site just to stay warm? To what extent will the state-sponsored ease of heroin use actually create demand for the drug? And how far is a user willing to walk to shoot up? We will still be finding needles in our playgrounds and parks. That mischievous behaviour will not cease.
Safe-injection sites give a nod of approval to drug use. The ‘no judgment’ attitude shows that there is a contradiction between criminal law and our ‘cradle-to-grave’ welfare state. In this case, the grave might have just moved a few grams closer. Or do safe-injection sites save lives by reducing the spread of disease and limiting overdoses, as proponents suggest? At the very least, the Edmonton proposal is limited. If these sites are going to be permitted, they need to show compassion and dignity to the drug users. Their primary objective should be to provide support for people to break their addictions.
But more than anything else, as a society we need to address the mental health and poverty issues that cause some people to use hardcore drugs. We need more options for kids and families so that they do not turn to drug use. Finally, before placing any such facility in a community, we need the buy-in of that community.
Other Grey Issues of Morality in Edmonton (Certain Police Tactics & Shady Massage Parlors)
I am in favour of police officers going undercover to uproot organized crime or terrorist cells… but (as an example) should police pose as professional race car drivers and speed around the Henday? When regular Edmonton drivers gets excited and speed too, the police would be on hand to issue tickets. Does that sound like an absurd tactic? Well…
Edmonton police recently caught a bunch of would-be “Johns” (I hate that term) by deploying scantily-clad undercover female officers, posing to passers-by to ‘get under the covers’. While this operation removed several men who were keen to pay a prostitute for sexual services, our school children witnessed an increased presence of prostitutes, even though some were faux.
Naturally, the police conducted their prostitution sting in already hard-on-their-luck areas such as Alberta Avenue, on the North Side. Is there a chance that someone seeing the influx of prostitutes made a final conclusion of giving up hope in the area? (Ironic then that the police were behind this.) What about the “Johns”: Did some of the perpetrators give into their sexual urges, who wouldn’t have otherwise if the police did not add a surge of prostitution? What would’ve happened if the police used the same resources but, instead of adding prostitutes, they worked to fix social ills in the sex trade?
How does this tie in with safe injection sites, the first theme of this article? Well, what if the City gave prostitutes a safe place to work, then… Oh wait, they already do.
Edmontonians should know that the City currently regulates ‘prostitution’ through zoning. It shocks me that many people are completely unaware of this interesting fact. I am referring to exotic massage parlours, which are euphemistically referred to as “Body Rub Centres.” They are not underground establishments; they are regulated, taxed, and found in the phone book. City Council has defined a “Body Rub Centre” as a
Personal Service Shop development where services are provided that involve the physical external manipulation of the soft tissues of the human body that are performed, offered or solicited for a fee in a manner that appeals to or is designed to appeal to erotic or sexual appetites or inclinations. This includes but is not limited to a body rub advertised by any means as “sensual”, “sexy” or by any other word or any depiction having like meaning or implication.
This includes sexual intercourse, which is often the principal service offered. There is not even the facade of legitimate massage in these places. There are two of these within a one-minute walk of Norwood School.
This is a complicated matter, admittedly, as prostitution is a hard vice to destroy, and often the women are the victims. I am going to leave it at that, except to say that City Council should not be in the business of pimping, or regulating morality, nor should they tarnish legitimate massage services, such as are offered by Registered Massage Therapists. The City-endorsed brothels are easily confused with legitimate massage services, and this is an injustice to RMTs.
If you live in Ward 3, you can have confidence voting for me, knowing that I will follow my conscience.
I will vote against safe-injection sites and massage brothels in Ward 3, or anywhere on the North Side for that matter. I will do what I can to increase the dignity of our most vulnerable and help them to get off the streets. We need to move people back into the productive side of society and address the root cause of their issues.
Jon Dziadyk “Jon D for Ward 3”
North Side Journal
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