B.C. municipalities get mixed messages on how to tackle public drug use

Open this photo in gallery:

Needles are seen on the ground in Oppenheimer Park in downtown Vancouver on March 17, 2020.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Local authorities in British Columbia are awaiting help, promised by the provincial government, to address residents’ concerns about public drug use after the province decided in January to decriminalize possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs.

Several municipalities are proposing ordinances to curb public drug use amid concerns that parks and beaches will become crowded with more children, families and tourists as summer approaches. In response, some have proposed by-laws to limit drug use, but health officials say it could lead to an increase in the risk of overdose.

Prime Minister David Eby has promised to do “something” to address local authorities’ concerns, telling lawmakers he will ensure they have the “tools” needed to address these issues. However, at least one councilman has been told by health officials that ordinances restricting drug use violate public health measures, and a legal advocacy group has said such ordinances are outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Jen Ford, president of the Union of BC Municipalities, said this has raised concerns among municipalities that they face legal challenges in controlling where drugs can be consumed.

“When parks and playgrounds are open for public drug use, that’s a concern for us, especially as summer approaches.”

Two weeks ago, the prime minister promised to consult local authorities on overt drug use. Ms Ford said those talks have yet to begin.

The proposed statutes come in response to the launch of BC’s three-year pilot in January, which decriminalizes possession of personal quantities of illicit drugs linked to overdoses, such as opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA. The province said the move was taken to break down stigma and barriers that may prevent people from accessing life-saving supplies.

Read  How to Successfully Relocate Your Warehouse Facility

The Decriminalization Act does not apply to drug possession in certain locations such as schools, day-care centers and airports.

Prince George, Kamloops, Sicamous and Campbell River are among communities trying to regulate hard drug use in other public spaces.

Campbell River passed legislation restricting public drug use earlier this year, but rescinded it on advice from public health officials and a legal threat from the Pivot Legal Society. The society said the municipality had not consulted the health authorities and that the statute was outside its jurisdiction.

According to the Pivot Legal Society, a city may not pass a health ordinance of any kind without consulting its city health officer or regional health committee. It also said that local governments cannot issue public health ordinances without provincial approval.

However, last month the Council at Campbell River again proposed a charter This time, the measure aimed more closely at curbing drug use in places where children are, such as playgrounds and parks.

Campbell River City Manager Elle Brovold said the community is proposing the ordinance because of concerns that public drug use is fueling increasing unrest. She said these incidents discourage people from using parks and other public spaces for recreational activities.

“For example, we hear stories from parents who no longer feel comfortable taking their children to our local library.”

In a letter to Campbell River City Council in April regarding the recent proposed bylaw, Dr. Charmaine Enns, medical health officer at Island Health, that Campbell River should not proceed with the bylaw amendment and instead gather, review and consider the available evidence before proceeding.

Read  How to mitigate legal risks when using generative AI in Europe - Osborne Clarke

“For those living without shelter and challenged by substance use that keeps them further away from public space, which is often the only space they have, the likelihood of dying from a toxic drug overdose is significantly increased,” she wrote.

The letter said there was evidence that drug use was not increasing with decriminalization.

“It is of particular concern that a key reason for the proposed statute appears to be people’s discomfort in shared public places, while generally ignoring the burden and proven harm of those who use substances,” wrote Dr. Enns.

Ms Ford said going to court is time-consuming and costly and local governments need to focus their efforts on keeping residents safe while also giving people who use drugs the help they need.

“We want the province to step in and help us, not just on the enforcement or exemption side, but also in providing the mental health and support needed to help people find safe places. “

During last month’s legislature, Mr Eby responded to calls from opposition politicians for the province to tackle overt drug use in public places.

“I am pleased to say to Members on the other hand, to all Members of this House, to British Columbians and to parents of children, that our Government will work with local government partners to ensure these safeguards are in place.” No one wants this activity to impact our children and we will do something about it.”

The Department of Health declined to provide anyone on record to speak on the subject.

Read  The Best Kiefer Sutherland Movies And TV Shows (And How To Watch Them)

Ms Ford said the municipalities look forward to working with the province.

“We heard from the province that they would like to work with us. The municipalities are ready for this.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button