A now-deleted tweet shared by the official account of Alberta’s Minister of Mental Health and Addiction includes a statement that it promotes “false information.”
On Sunday morning, Minister Nicholas Milliken’s account tweeted an article written by British tabloid DailyMail about a woman experiencing homelessness in Portland.
The tweet quoted, “A homeless woman in Portland boasts that she is fed three meals a day by the waking city and can stay in her tent all day and do drugs.”
A now-deleted tweet shared by Alberta’s Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, Nicholas Milliken, on Sunday, January 8, 2023.
Laurian Hardcastle, an associate law professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in health policy, characterized the minister’s explained tweet as “extremely problematic,” suggesting a potential misconception of addiction and homelessness. increase.
“I don’t think this tweet was constructive at all,” Hardcastle said, adding that he should have provided context as to whether it was his opinion and why he shared it.
“He should tweet about policy solutions to these problems, show empathy for those struggling with addiction, and not make critical comments about how easy their lives are.
Colin Aytchison, the minister’s press secretary, confirmed to CTV News Edmonton that the tweet was shared from Milliken’s account, citing the “article headline.”
“The tweet was deleted when I realized it was misrepresented as his opinion rather than sharing the article’s headline,” Aitchison said.
CTV News Edmonton asked who wrote the tweet and what the intent was for sharing it, but has yet to receive a response.
Along with the statement, Aitchison highlighted how the province created the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app, which in October raised 124 million dollars to expand its response to Alberta’s addiction crisis. Invested $10,000 in new funds.
Civil servants have a duty to educate: Hardcastle
Hardcastle said that as minister, Milliken has a responsibility to provide a balanced and informed perspective to help educate and shape debate on the issue.
“I don’t think the education we want for the public on these issues is that it’s convenient or easy to fight addiction or homelessness,” Hardcastle said. are some of the most vulnerable citizens and those in need of government protection.”
Edmonton County. Andrew Knack agreed with his Hardcastle opinion, adding that he frequently shares articles online that either agree or disagree. It’s important to him to provide context.
“If the minister had shared that article for the information he suggested, well, we don’t want that to happen here, or we don’t want it to continue here. I really don’t want change. I have the authority to bring about this, so I will act as a minister to resolve this,” Knack said.
Knack, who represents Ward Nakota Isuga, questioned sharing stories about the United States with different mental health and addiction funding authorities.
In Canada, these issues fall within the jurisdiction of provincial governments, whereas in the United States, mental health and addiction are handled by local governments.
“This continues to perpetuate the misinformation that it is up to the city itself to actually resolve this,” he added. We need to work together, we just need to make sure everyone is involved.”
Questions about bias
Knack is still “hopeful” that a Milliken-led social affairs task force in both Calgary and Edmonton will reach evidence-based conclusions, but Hardcastle said the minister’s tweet exacerbates existing optical problems. It has said.
Hardcastle said many have been concerned for years that Alberta’s UCP-led government approach to mental health and addiction was largely “politically driven.”
“Previously, this government approach was concerning from a policy standpoint,” she said, citing reactions to the state’s criticized monitored consumption site stance.
According to her, many feel that the UCP approach tends to be “biased” toward a recovery-based approach rather than a wider range of harm reduction options.
“But now this sort of thing is added to it, and it makes me wonder if these policy choices are driven by a misunderstanding of addiction and those who suffer from it,” Hardcastle said.
“This suggests a deeper issue with actual prejudice against these individuals and a complete misunderstanding of the nature of addiction and homelessness.”
on social media A State Health Commentator Asked Where a tabloid article is evidence “used by UCP to justify its policy.”
“Is this the level of thought and consideration he plans to bring to the Task Force on Social Issues?” said David Shepard, the opposition MLA for Edmonton City Center.
Opposition financial commentator and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips said the tweet represented “unbecoming ministerial conduct”.
On Twitter, Brent Coleman, who identified himself as a recovered addict, asked if the minister would issue an official retraction and apology for his “horrifyingly brutal attitude.”
Because Milliken’s account is used for professional outreach, Hardcastle said it should be “treated as such.”
“He should say things he would only say in a professional setting,” she added. “I know he has this role.”
“If this is his true view, I think it’s important that the people of Alberta know this so they can put the prime minister’s foot in the door that perhaps he’s not the right person for this portfolio. “
Using Kyra Markov’s files from CTV News Edmonton