'A local concern': Province says it won't pay extra cash to help police Saskatoon safe consumption site
SASKATOON -- Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell has rejected the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners' request for provincial support to help with policing a planned supervised consumption site.
"We understand that there has been challenges around other supervised consumption sites across western Canada. While we appreciate those challenges, the City of Saskatoon is ultimately responsible for deciding how to best distribute its resources. The provincial government funds areas that are of mutual provincial priority and not strictly a local concern," Tell said in a Nov. 20 letter to board Chair Darlene Brander.
In 2019, the province provided Saskatoon police with $4.91 million in Municipal Police Grants as a part of the city's $105 million police budget, Tell said in the letter.
An August report to the board, prepared by an officer who had toured four safe consumption sites in Alberta, said federal and provincial funding is necessary to ensure enough officers are available for the site’s opening.
"All four sites attended had no strategy in place prior to opening. The social and criminal issues that began after opening took months to settle due to a lack of pre-planning," the report said.
The City of Saskatoon will spend $1.6 million over the next two years for eight officers in response to the safe consumption site.
Health Minister Jim Reiter had said last month that the government will consider whether to help fund the operations of the site itself as part of 2020 budget deliberations.
AIDS Saskatoon is asking the Saskatchewan Health Authority for $1.3 million in annual funding to pay for some overhead costs and staff.
The supervised consumption room is designed to handle about 250 people a day once it is running.
The doors to the drop-in area of the site, where people can get a cup of coffee and connect with different services providing income assistance, housing, addictions and family supports, is open.
The safe consumption facility is slated to open next year.