Alberta’s United Conservative Party government could introduce a law to force drug addicts into treatment, if reelected in May’s provincial election. 

According to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail through an access-to-information request, the government has considered introducing a law to place those with severe drug addiction into treatment without their consent. 

The legislation would be the first involuntary treatment law in Canada to specifically target addiction. The bill would be called the “Compassionate Intervention Act,” and could be introduced in the legislature at some point this year.

Colin Aitchison, spokesperson to Addictions and Mental Health Minister Nicholas Milliken, said the premier tasked the office with bringing forward recommendations to improve interventions for Albertans with addiction who may be a danger to themselves or others. He said the Compassionate Intervention Act was put forward as part of the effort to explore a variety of options. 

“As of this time, no decisions have been made by the Government of Alberta,” Aitchison told True North.

“We will continue to build out a full continuum of care, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery, where all Albertans who are struggling with addiction can be compassionately supported in their pursuit of recovery.” 

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, who does not respond to inquiries from True North, told the Globe that the legislation is too punitive and “ is doomed to failure, both from a treatment perspective and a legal one.” 

“Effective and lasting treatment meets people where they’re at and supports them in taking a different path,” Notley said in a statement. “I strongly expect that the courts would strike down an approach that forcibly confines Albertans who have not been convicted of a crime.”

Since forming government in 2019, the UCP government has spent millions to develop a wide-ranging addiction recovery program unlike anything else in Canada.

That includes six massive recovery communities currently being built by the province. The first of those opened in north Red Deer earlier this year. It’s nearly the size of a football field, has 75 beds, and the ability to treat up to 300 people per year.

The government’s addictions recovery efforts have been headed up by Marshall Smith, a recovered Vancouver drug addict who was hired by former premier Jason Kenney to head up the province’s addictions and recovery ministry. Smith was promoted as the new premier’s chief of staff in October.

In an interview with True North late last year, Smith said his appointment “without a question” signifies the seriousness with which the premier considers the addictions crisis. He also said there’s been a change in how addictions are viewed, which guides the systems of implementation. 

“Simply, our view is that people have the right to recover and get well. They have the right to individual choice and the freedom of choice. They have the right to be unencumbered in their pursuit of a better life for themselves.” 


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.