Posted on Nov 17, 2017

New opioid centre, cannabis and Bill 24

By Annie McKitrick, MLA for Sherwood Park

This week, Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne announced that come December, the Strathcona Community Hospital will be the site of a new Opioid Dependency Treatment Clinic. This clinic will meet the needs of residents living in Strathcona County, and those in the areas immediately east of us. The clinic will provide opioid dependency treatment, as well as connecting clients to counselling services offered at the Addiction and Mental Health Clinic on-site at the Strathcona Community Hospital. This will include addiction counselling, mental health counselling, and individual and group treatment.

Two things that have become very clear of late are that opioid dependency has reached crisis levels both provincewide and here within our community; and that this crisis affects people of all walks of life, regardless of socio-economic or cultural background. Even my own extended family has experienced the tragedy of losing a family member to addiction. This experience helped spur me to find ways to support those in our communities living with dependency in accessing the programs they need. Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) with Strathcona County has been instrumental in coordinating a community-based response to our opioid epidemic, connecting first-responders, community supports and private citizens. I am very proud that our community is leading the way in finding comprehensive, collaborative approaches to meet the needs of our residents.

I would like to mention Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) for their ongoing work in supporting parents whose children struggle with substance use, for the resources they provide, and for the ways parents encourage each other. On Nov. 21, PEP is holding a community forum and panel - PEP Talks Pot - from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Room 2 of the Strathcona County Community Centre.

Cannabis

Thank you to everyone who has contacted our office to share their thoughts on laws being debated in the Legislative Assembly. The issue of cannabis legislation has generated a fair amount of feedback from our constituents since the Government of Canada introduced legislation that would legalize the use and possession of nonmedical cannabis and make changes to federal impaireddriving laws in the Criminal Code. The proposed federal changes include three new impaired driving charges specific to cannabis, cannabis/alcohol combination, and other drugs. The first provincial bill introduced ahead of the July 1, 2018 deadline from the federal government is Bill 29, An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving, which looks toward updating the Traffic Safety Act to reflect these changes and to ensure that sanctions for drug-impaired driving would be aligned with federal guidelines. The provincial government has been focused on ensuring the safety of all Albertans as they implement policies on cannabis. If the bill is passed, there would be new provincial sanctions for cannabis-impaired and cannabis/alcohol-impaired driving offences.

The government will be tabling a further bill related to the federal cannabis policies during this fall session, relating to the selling of cannabis and its consumption. More information on Bill 29 and the upcoming legislation can be found at www.assembly.ab.ca.

Bill 24

Our office has also received many e-mails on Bill 24. I appreciate the concerns raised, especially on the issue of parental authority. This bill in no way removes parental authority, nor does it remove the duty of teachers to inform parents if religion or human sexuality is discussed in class as part of the curriculum. The bill relates to GSAs, which are extra-curricular clubs formed at the request of students, which do not teach curriculum. We all hope that students feel able to share the many aspects of their lives with their parents, but we also know that, for whatever reason, this is not always the case. This bill protects the privacy of students. Teachers still have the duty to inform parents if they feel a student may endanger themselves or another person. GSAs are important places for many of our students, providing them with a safe place and support network, and helping them to find allies in their community. As a government, we want to ensure that every young person is safe and is able to share important things about themselves with parents and others, in their own time and their own way.

The week of Nov. 21 to 26 is constituency week. I will be in my office and available for meetings, certification of documents or a chat. It’s that time of year again where we begin to see seasonal craft sales and performances. Check the community listings for an event near you for the opportunity to shop locally from local artisans and take in some wonderful performances.