Alberta is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid overdose epidemic. Opioid overdose deaths have increased exponentially over the last five years, with 1,152 deaths in 2020 alone – more than twice the amount recorded in 2016. The rate of overdose deaths has increased in 2021; at least 4 people die of an overdose each day in Alberta.
The reason behind the rise in overdose deaths is an increase of poisoned street-sourced opioid supply. More and more often, street-sourced opioids are being contaminated by synthetic opioids. If an individual is unaware that their substance is contaminated or poisoned, they are at a much greater risk of overdose and death.
Supervised consumption services save the lives of Albertans who use substances or live with substance use disorder. These services provide a secure space where people can safely use their pre-obtained substances, primarily opioids, in a monitored, hygienic, and non-criminalized setting. Supervised consumption services help prevent accidental overdoses and reduce additional harms associated with substance use. Without access to these sites, substance users are more likely to consume substances unsafely, greatly increasing their risk of death and serious injury.
Supervised consumption sites in Canada are regulated by the federal government. Since 2017, the federal government has changed the law make it easier to establish supervised consumption sites, including overdose prevention sites, and ensure that there are minimal barriers to accessing these lifesaving services.
In April 2021, the Alberta Government adopted new regulations and adopted the Recovery-Oriented Overdose Prevention Service Guide (“Guidelines”), which reintroduce many of the same barriers to establishing supervised consumption sites that the federal government removed in 2017 and added many more. The Guidelines will have a significantly negative effect on those who access supervised consumption services in Alberta. They increase barriers to both accessing and operating the sites, which will prevent Albertans who use substances from accessing supervised consumption services.
In response to the Guidelines, Moms Stop the Harm (“MSTH”), an organization of families impacted by substance-use related harms and deaths, and the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society (“LOPS”), an overdose prevention service provider based in Lethbridge, have commenced legal action against the Government of Alberta to ensure that no additional barriers to the access and provision of life-saving supervised consumption services are introduced.
MSTH and LOPS argue that the Guidelines frustrate the federal government’s purpose behind the changes to the laws around supervised consumption sites in 2017 to make them easier to open and access. They also allege that the Guidelines breach sections 2(a), 2(b), 7, 8, 12, and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The outcome of this lawsuit will have life and death impacts on individuals who use substances and access supervised consumption services in Alberta.
The Government of Alberta has a teams of lawyers and unlimited resources to defend against the action. In contrast, MSTH and LOPS are community-run non-profit societies with limited financial means.
We need your help to level the playing field.
Please donate what you can to our legal fund. Any amount you can share will help ensure that Albertans who depend on supervised consumption site can continue to access these lifesaving and life sustaining services.
Nanda & Company / Avnish Nanda will be withdrawing the funds generated from this GoFundMe and depositing in the trust account of Nanda & Company. These funds cannot be used without the authorization of Moms Stop the Harm Society and Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society. The funds will only be used for the purposes of the lawsuit and any excess will be provided to Moms Stop the Harm Society and Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society to determine what to do with the funds.