Edmonton, We Have A Problem
Edmonton, We Have A Problem
By Kerry Diotte
Edmonton, we have a problem.
It’s a crisis of public safety - especially downtown and on transit.
That was the view of the majority of people who attended a recent panel discussion on public safety in Edmonton put on by Alberta Proud and the Alberta Institute.
I was one of three panelists discussing public safety, joining Common Sense Edmonton’s Will Vishloff, Western Standard’s Arthur Craig Green, and moderator Peter McCaffrey of the Alberta Institute.
My lead-off question to the audience established that public safety is a top concern.
More than half the attendees put up their hands to indicate they didn’t feel safe in Edmonton downtown or on transit.
The evidence of public disorder is widespread, but it’s particularly troubling in the downtown core and on the LRT and its stations.
Take a walk through the downtown core; you’ll see open drug use and homeless people in numerous make-shift camps.
There are also now daily reports of violent crime, including random attacks on people who take public transit.
I have a chiropractor friend who says his downtown street-level office has been plagued with people smoking meth at his doorstep, harassing and scaring his clients, and breaking and entering the premises on several occasions.
He’s lost numerous customers who are afraid to run the gauntlet of unruly, lawless loiterers and aggressive panhandlers.
My fellow panellist, Arthur Green, told the audience he made it a point to showcase the public disorder in downtown Edmonton by documenting the situation on social media.
So how did we get here?
How did Edmonton streets and transit go from being largely clean, safe, and welcoming to this dystopian scene we’re now experiencing?
There were several compounding factors, I believe.
The introduction of three public supervised drug injection sites in 2017 outraged communities where they were located.
I know that because two of the sites were in or on the border of the Edmonton federal riding that I represented as a Member of Parliament at the time.
I believe I was the only politician to bother holding a town hall meeting to get community input.
Despite what was claimed when they were proposed, the sites haven’t seemed to curb widespread illicit drug use.
In fact, most people forced to live or work near the sites complain there seems to be more drug use in public, and an increase in dangerous discarded needles on the streets.
The rampant public drug use issue is compounded by the fact that in August 2020, federal prosecutors were directed by the federal government to abstain from charging people for possession of all illicit drugs.
Law enforcement people tell me that’s emboldened people to openly use all sorts of hard drugs.
A compassionate society should not simply turn a blind eye to the public use of illegal, dangerous drugs.
But left-leaning politicians at all levels have taken that approach, in the naive belief that it’s somehow beneficial to society or addicts.
I don’t buy that.
It’s simply not compassionate to sit back and watch people slowly poison themselves to death.
Ultimately, we need comprehensive approaches to battle addictions and homelessness.
We need to give people the tools to overcome their addictions, but Band-Aid solutions, as have been tried recently, simply don’t cut it.
Without a full reset of how we treat the issue of drug addiction and homelessness, we will continue to be plagued with public disorder, increased crime, and danger on our transit.
But never throw up your hands and think your voice is insignificant.
If public disorder and crime upset you, let people know.
Contact your Councillor by email or phone.
Get in touch with politicians at the provincial and federal levels.
Call the police when you see a crime.
Write letters to the editor.
Join the more than 2,000 Edmontonians who have signed Common Sense Edmonton's petition calling on the City to declare a transit safety emergency.
You can also make a donation to help them continue bringing you important information about what's happening in our city.
It may sound trite, but we, as a community, must do our part to solve these problems, and we have the collective power to do so.
Most importantly, get involved!
Kerry Diotte is a long-time journalist, former City Councillor, and Member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach from 2015 to 2021.