There was not a dry eye in the room as Premier Danielle Smith and a gathering of Indigenous leaders, UCP ministers and most importantly victims of addiction and their families shared testimonies of heartbreak while insisting that recovery, not free drugs from the government, is the only compassionate way to move forward.
While announcements about tax savings or infrastructure investments are no doubt important to our province’s success moving forward, they are not so paramount as to make, if even for a moment, all else seem trivial.
The UCP's announcement of its Plan to Improve Community Safety and Well-being on the other hand was paramount, as the tear-filled eyes of the premier, ministers Ellis and Milliken, Indigenous leaders, those sharing their testimonies of addiction and even many in the media can certainly attest.
You can read all the details of the UCP's extensive plan to expand supports and remove costs for those accessing addiction recovery services by clicking here, but potentially the most significant detail of the plan is the proposed development of a Compassionate Intervention Act, which would enable, “…a family member, doctor, psychologist, or police officer to make a petition to a specially appointed non-criminal judge to issue a treatment order. The court would be able to divert an addict who is in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others to engage in treatment instead of jail.”
This act would serve as a life-saving alternative that would likely fall in line with already existing mental health interventions that would offer appropriate intercessory care to an individual who might otherwise pose a risk to themselves, or to others within the community.
The policy announcement serves as a stark contrast to the free safe drug supply approach that NDP, or at least many of its candidates, have espoused despite Rachel Notley’s recent ham-fisted attempts to deny that reality.
Critics of the UCP's proposed intervention act often argue that compelled treatments of this nature can be an affront upon individual’s rights, but I put that challenge to both Premier Smith and Minister of Public Safety and Emergencies Mike Ellis who both offered impassioned responses rejecting this criticism as indifferent to the agency depleting effects of drugs, with Ellis, a former police officer, adding an emotional, “are we going to condemn a 12 year old to a life of palliative care by giving them drugs, giving them a safe place to use these drugs? We have hope, this offers hope.”
Rebel News was fortunate to be joined by Minister Ellis for an interview as the event was wrapping up to learn more about the proposed act. We also spoke with Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Nicholas Milliken about the province's plans to support those struggling with addiction.
Chief Roy Whitney of Tsuut’ina Nation, who you may recall from our RepairTheChurch.com campaign, who was one a four chiefs/elders representing local First Nations communities in a show of support for this initiative, shared with us about his experience tackling addiction among his people and about the need to humanize and to help those who are struggling.
Perhaps most importantly, we spoke with some of the individuals who shared their testimonies about the heartbreak that comes with addiction, and about how these interventions, as difficult as they may be, are the only compassionate option and the only way to save lives.
For more of our critical independent coverage of issues like these, be sure to check in regularly at AlbertaDecides.com.