Edmonton’s supervised consumption sites, aka safe injection sites, have won big over a local business association that wanted two of 3 downtown sites closed.

Back in October 2018, the Chinatown and Area Business Association (CABA) filed a judicial review application, claiming that it was not properly consulted before Health Canada’s decision to open 3 supervised consumption sites in downtown Edmonton.

supervised consumption sites

The locations of the 3 supervised consumption sites. Courtesy of Pivot Legal Society.

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC), which was represented by Pivot Legal Society’s Caitlin Shane and Ethos Law Group’s Monique Pongracic-Speier (QC), intervened in the case, arguing that:

CABA and other third parties do not have a mandatory right to weigh in on the approval of consumption sites in Canada. Instead, public health and safety should be the principal concern of the government in considering applications, as this would best protect the Constitutional rights to safety and security for people who use drugs accessing life-saving services.”

Federal Court of Canada Justice Mosley agreed, saying in his decision that:

“The process [to approve a supervised consumption site] is both discretionary and non-adjudicative.

The principal and mandatory focus of the legislation is on the question of whether [approval] would provide public health benefits. Any consideration of negative impacts on the local community is secondary and discretionary.”

The case threatened to affect how supervised consumption sites are opened across the country, and the decision conclusively shows that NIMBY-ism does not override the rights of people who use drugs, who are already marginalized and stigmatized enough.

The CABA is merely a business association, after all, which begged the question of how much consultation should third parties like this Edmonton business association be afforded when making drug policy decisions? Keep in mind that cities across North America are reeling from an opioid crisis and people are dying every single day.

Bottom line, supervised consumption sites save lives by administering naloxone in the event of an overdose, connecting people to health and social services, and providing harm reduction supports such as sterile equipment and encouraging safer drug use, according to the government of Alberta website.

Donald MacPherson, Executive Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said:

“This is a precedent-setting decision helping people to save lives amid a national health crisis.

Justice Mosley’s decision means that frontline health care providers wishing to offer life-saving supervised consumption services can do so without unnecessary delays.

It restores public health as the key concern for approving these sites.”


Featured image courtesy of Pivot Legal Society.


Government of AlbertaSupervised consumption services.

Pivot Legal Society: Pivot Legal Society and Canadian Drug Policy Coalition defend access to harm reduction at Federal Court of Canada.

Pivot Legal Society: Pivot Legal Society and Canadian Drug Policy Coalition successfully defend supervised consumption at Federal Court of Canada.