Requirement to provide health number for accessing supervised consumption sites in Alberta postponed once again

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A planned requirement to provide personal-identifying information to access supervised drug consumption services is now postponed to the end of January, pending a judicial decision in an emergency injunction hearing.

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The demand that those needing the service provide a personal health-care number has been delayed to Jan. 31, from Jan. 3, until Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Belzil issues a decision on an emergency injunction hearing for a lawsuit filed by Moms Stop The Harm Society and the Lethbridge Overdose Protection Society.

The lawsuit, filed in August, challenges the constitutionality of new rules in Alberta for supervised consumption sites that came into effect on Sept. 30.

The rules, outlined in the province’s Recovery-Oriented Overdose Prevention Guide , include a “good neighbour agreement” with surrounding communities, which would include a dispute resolution process, as well as rules for standardized data collection, staff qualification and training, and clinical practice standards.

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They would also require new clients to provide their personal health number to use a consumption site.

The Alberta government initially delayed the requirement to Jan. 3, in order to give time for service operators to become a “custodian” under the Health Information Act (HIA).

Belzil heard arguments Wednesday and Thursday this week for the emergency injunction hearing and asked the lawyers for the Alberta government to delay the implementation of personal identity requirements to Jan. 31, 2022, so he could have additional time to review and render a decision.

Lawyer Aleisha Bartier, representing the province, confirmed the extension on Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s in place at this very second, but it will be by Jan. 3,” she said.

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Belzil also requested a written letter confirming the exemption extension.

Lawyer Avnish Nanda, representing the plaintiffs, argued over the two days for an injunction to be put in place to stop the province from implementing the rules that would have service providers require or request, store, and potentially disclose the personal identifying information of substance users with others.

He argued that putting such requirements in place would deter individuals from using supervised consumption sites and increase their likelihood of an overdose death.

Lawyers for the Alberta government, however, argued against the injunction application and disputed that the rules would cause irreparable harm.

Belzil will have a written decision no later than Jan. 31, 2022.

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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