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August 2017 Mayor Column

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lethbridge's twin-city relationship with Saint-Laurent, Quebec. As you read this month's column, I am in Saint-Laurent representing Lethbridge as part of the annual cultural exchange between our two cities.

Saint-Laurent and Lethbridge officially became twin cities back in 1967 as part of a Canadian Centennial project to strengthen relations between eastern and western Canada. 50 years on, Saint-Laurent and Lethbridge are the only cities in Canada that still have an active, vibrant twin-city relationship.

Each summer, a citizen exchange takes place, alternately involving senior citizens and students from our respective cities. Since 1967, approximately 300 Lethbridge residents have travelled to Saint-Laurent to experience the landscape and culture of Québec. Likewise, 300 Saint-Laurent residents have come to Lethbridge to experience southern Alberta first hand.

Joining me on this year's exchange are Councillor Liz Iwaskiw and Councillor Jeff Carlson. To commemorate our 50-year relationship, our two cities are exchanging public art as gifts to be displayed in each city. Earlier this year, Lethbridge City Council approved the commissioning of a unique art piece entitled coyote2coyote to be gifted to Saint-Laurent and displayed there in a large public square. Coyote2coyote will feature two bronze coyotes set against an abstract coulee form.

In return, Saint-Laurent commissioned a public artwork for Lethbridge for permanent installation at Henderson Lake Park. The concept of the Lethbridge-based artwork was unveiled on July 14 during the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden's 50th Anniversary celebrations. Both pieces will be installed in the summer of 2018.

We are excited and proud to be in Saint-Laurent this week to present a piece of southern Alberta as a legacy gift that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors to Saint-Laurent for years to come. We also look forward to seeing the artwork that is coming as a gift to Lethbridge from our twin city.

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Earlier this month, we received very encouraging news regarding our broad-based community effort to respond to the growing opioid crisis in our community.

Alberta's Health Minister Sarah Hoffman publicly voiced her strong support for our local application to establish Supervised Consumption Services in Lethbridge to respond to the local opioid crisis. As you may have heard, the Lethbridge Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use is solidly behind an application which was submitted to Health Canada on July 31 by ARCHES, a local harm reduction agency.

As I told Health Canada officials at a meeting in June, the opioid crisis in Canada is not just a big-city problem. While our community experiences the disturbing effects every day such as overdose emergencies, overdose deaths, devastation to families, public drug use, petty crime, and public needle debris, the response to the opioid crisis ultimately resides under the jurisdiction of our federal and provincial governments.

Our local application to Health Canada is for an exemption to Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) which would allow those in our community battling with addictions to consume drugs under medical supervision within a Supervised Consumption Services facility. Lethbridge is the third city in Alberta to submit an application to Health Canada, and Minister Hoffman has publicly urged her federal counterpart to approve these applications as soon as possible.

The benefits of Supervised Consumption Services include:

  • Fewer overdose deaths
  • Fewer discarded needles in public places
  • Less public drug use
  • Less transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C from better access to clean needles
  • Increased use of detox and addiction treatment services
  • Reduced petty crime in the vicinity of Supervised Consumption Services facilities

Although federal approval of our application is still forthcoming, we understand that the Alberta government has already committed capital and operating funds for a Supervised Consumption Services facility in Lethbridge at a site identified in our application at 1016-1 Avenue South.

This location emerged through a site-selection process focused on the following criteria: its close proximity to primary areas where public drug use occurs, the high incidence of overdoses occurring within a 1.5-km radius of the identified site, its proximity to public transit, and the fact that it is well away from residential neighbourhoods.

Supervised Consumption Services are a permitted use under the existing land-use zoning for this site. ARCHES intends to relocate its existing harm reduction operations to the new site and integrate Supervised Consumption Services into its current programming.

You can find out more about Supervised Consumption Services and the Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use online at: www.lethbridge.ca/OpioidCoalition.

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Next week, the 120th edition of Whoop-Up Days will get underway. Held every year since 1897 by Exhibition Park, this week-long event is an annual highlight and is one of the best things about living in Lethbridge.

The Whoop-Up Days Parade always draws thousands of spectators, and I look forward to participating in it this Tuesday, Aug. 22. Honorary parade marshals this year are Lethbridge Olympians and world-class athletes Rachel Nicol, Zack McAllister, Ashley Steacy and Heather Steacy. Don't miss it!

I hope you'll also come out and enjoy attractions such as the ever-popular midway, the Can-Am Bucking & Barrels Pro Challenge Rodeo, the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Tipi Village, and the nightly concerts on the Gas King Stage. In addition to the tremendous array of Whoop-Up Days attractions and events at Exhibition Park, I always look forward to attending the numerous Whoop-Up Days breakfasts and barbecues held all over Lethbridge by local businesses and organizations.

I look forward to seeing you around town and at The Ex!

Mayor Chris Spearman
August 18, 2017