Dope Train: Edmonton's Media Blackout

Sheila Gunn Reid and videographer Kian Simone ride the rails aboard the 'Dope Train', the crime ridden light rail transit system in Edmonton, Alberta, where the local government has imposed a media blackout in an attempt to cover up the tragedy unfolding on trains and in transit stations.

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Urban progressive policies and public safety are colliding, and the battleground of these two concepts is here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada's transit system. However, if the city government has its way, you may never know how wrong they got it.

The city has just issued a new directive banning journalists like myself, and my videographer, Kian Simone, from reporting in the light rail transit system. The city cites safety concerns, apparently for the city. Their safety concerns are the public finding out just how bad the social decay is in the LRT system.

Journalists should not have to ask the very people who caused the problem of social decay for the right to report on it. Let's look at the back story to see how Edmonton got in this mess in the first place.

Where it all started

This all began in 2021. It's a call that's been growing among the calls for police reform, like defunding the police. Edmonton cut the policing budget as part of an international progressive wave to reimagine our public institutions.

Fast forward to summer 2022, when a new initiative emerged to deal with the rapidly declining urban landscape, LRT stations became makeshift supervised consumption sites because of it's a high visibility. This concept is that if someone overdoses in a very public place, they're likely to get help more quickly.

The city's response to the problem caused by defunding the police? Well, it was the public inclusion and outreach for illicit drugs response team. And that team took a remarkable step. They went to the city's LRT stations and started handing out drug paraphernalia — crack pipes and needles to the people using illicit drugs inside the city's public infrastructure.

The origins of the response team, can be traced back to June 2022.

Province puts the pressure on Edmonton

That's when the city came under extreme pressure from the provincial government to do something about the drug problem and the rising crime rates in the downtown core. “I want to ensure that the people of Edmonton receive adequate and effective policing, and that's why I'm requesting that the City of Edmonton take direct action to address this alarming situation,” Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said at the time.

“The order says, 'show us your plan', and we have a plan and we've augmented that plan in recent weeks and in recent days,” responded Edmonton councillor Tim Cartmell. “Essentially, it'll be a question about that plan.”

The city's decision to distribute crack pipes and needles caused absolute destruction in the LRT system and made it unsafe for the people who, through green progressive policies, are forced to use the LRT system.

The turning point, not just for the province but for the public writ large, was when a methamphetamine user attacked someone on the transit system with an ice pick.

The city had to reckon with their poorly thought out plan to deal with the opioid crisis by enabling it, and the citizens of Edmonton and the users of the transit system demanded action. They weren't seeing it from the city, however. A vacuum was left, and Premier Danielle Smith stepped in to fill the void.

Smith deployed provincial sheriffs to the downtown core and to the transit system to make it safer for the people who use the transit system, but also for the businesses in and around the downtown core.

The power of citizen journalism

At the same time, a social movement began.

Citizen journalists and regular people — people who had to travel to the downtown core, people who had to work there and ride the transit system — started documenting and sharing their own experiences on social media. It was a movement for change through exposure.

Among those voices was a journalist, Arthur C. Green, who, at the time, was working for the Western Standard here in Edmonton. He made it his personal mission to expose just how bad it was in the city's downtown core.

Not out of a sense of disgust, but rather a sense of compassion for the people who live, work and suffer from addiction. And the city's response to the effectiveness of those journalists like Arthur C. Green, exposing how the municipal government failed was a complete and total media blackout in the LRT stations here.

Media 'blackout' relies on compliance

My videographer and I rode the LRT system all day. We did journalism in every single station; we weren't hassled once.

Now, that is not because there isn't a media blackout. It's because the city knows it doesn't have to enforce their media blackout. They know the other journalists in this city will comply and hide the city's failures.

I should note that the mayor of Edmonton is a man named Amarjeet Sohi. He's a former Justin Trudeau cabinet minister who, upon losing his seat, came back to be the mayor here. And it's clear: once a liberal, always a liberal; once a progressive, always a progressive.

What we see here is just a continuation of the federal government's anti-independent media, anti-transparency policies. Instead, they rely on the mainstream media who are colonized by Justin Trudeau to hide their failures.

Edmonton's tragedy isn't unique

The story here is not over. In fact, it's just beginning.

What's happening here isn't unique. It's happening in cities all across Canada and all across the Western world. It's exactly what happens when municipalities and local governments take a soft on crime approach and couple that with enabling drug addiction.

Will the actions of the provincial government be effective enough to help the citizens of Edmonton? I guess that remains to be seen. 

To sign our petition calling on governments to act, to make cities safe for the people who live there, please go to to help us pressure the government to clean up our cities.

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