Provincial panel appointed to review supervised consumption

A former Red Deer RCMP member has been named to the provincial government’s committee to review supervised consumption sites (SCS).

Steve Cormack is one of eight members appointed to the panel the province says will hear from Albertans on the social and economic impacts of supervised consumption sites on their homes, businesses and communities.

The committee is being chaired by former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht, who in the past has said SCS in Alberta need to focus on rehabilitation as opposed to consumption.

In a release, the government says the committee appointed by Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions represents a range of relevant views and experiences. Its members also include academics, medical professionals and businessmen.

“We’ve heard Albertans’ concerns about impacts on their homes, businesses and communities,” said Luan. “We’ve chosen a panel of experts to listen to Albertans, review the evidence, and report back on their findings.”

Luan says the government already has plenty of information suggesting that safe injection sites do save lives. He also says the review will correct what he calls an imbalance in previous government policy on the sites.

Cormack, now a local real estate agent, spent 15 years policing Red Deer in a variety of duties including general uniform patrol, Criminal Intelligence, Serious Crimes, and six years in Drug Enforcement. He also was an original member of the group to establish the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.

The committee will hear from citizens, businesses, elected officials, supervised consumption services (SCS) operators, and other key stakeholders. Public engagement will take place over three weeks in September, in all communities with existing or proposed SCS, including Red Deer. The province says details regarding dates and locations are being finalized and that Albertans will also be able to submit feedback online.

The NDP Official Opposition calls the review panel “rigged,” saying it is “stacked with advocates of the discredited 1980s-era ‘abstinence-only’ approach” and doesn’t include a representative from supervised consumption services or any voice for harm reduction.

“As a matter of morality and a matter of faith, we as a society believe that every person deserves a shot at redemption and deserves to live – every person. So let’s give them that chance,” said Heather Sweet, Official Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addiction.

(With file from The Canadian Press, Government of Alberta and NDP Opposition media releases)