Concerns raised over proposed Alberta involuntary addictions treatment legislation

By Shilpa Downton and Alejandro Melgar

An Indigenous-led harm-reduction group in Calgary strongly disagrees with the Alberta government’s proposed legislation on involuntary addiction treatment for some.

In a statement to CityNews, Bear Clan Patrol says if passed, the legislation would be a violation of human rights.

“You can not just kidnap people who aren’t doing anything against the law. Most people become addicted through their own medications provided to them by their doctors. If the UCP is genuinely interested in opioid addiction, they can pass legislation that forces doctors to fix the root causes instead of masking symptoms,” the statement reads.

According to a report from The Globe and Mail, the legislation under consideration could place Albertans with severe drug and alcohol addictions into treatment without their consent.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has been cited in the report, with her referring to the potential legislation as the “Compassionate Intervention Act.”

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The Calgary group says many people need life skills and inclusion, along with “immediate access to mental health care” without waiting months to begin sessions with a professional.

“When someone is forced to stop using, often when they have the opportunity to use again, they pick up right where they left off, and that is how many drug poisonings occur. Treatment centres, available at no cost to people who do wish to recover in Alberta, still use barbaric methods,” the statement reads.

“They don’t even make rapid detox available. They make them suffer through withdrawal before admitting them in long-term treatment programs, and often ‘long term’ is only a few weeks.”

The Office of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions says this is part of the premier’s mandate letter to “improve interventions for Albertans with addiction who may be a danger to themselves or others.”

“As part of those efforts, department officials within Alberta Mental Health and Addiction explored a variety of options, including the potential development of a compassionate intervention act. As of this time, no decisions have been made by the government of Alberta,” the statement from the office of Minister Nicholas Milliken reads.

“We will continue to build out a full continuum of care, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery, where all Albertans who are struggling with addiction can be compassionately supported in their pursuit of recovery.”

This would be the first involuntary treatment law in the country to specifically target addiction.

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