Kamloops councillor says local drug bylaw still needed after province's decriminalization changes

City drug bylaw still needed

A Kamloops councillor whose motion kickstarted the creation of a local bylaw restricting public drug use says she appreciates the province’s recent decriminalization policy amendments, but said they don’t go far enough.

The provincial government announced last week it received permission from Health Canada to change its decriminalization policy, banning the possession of illicit drugs within 15 metres of play structures in playgrounds, spray parks or skate parks. The amendments took effect on Monday.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter said she still believes the City of Kamloops bylaw is “absolutely necessary.”

The city bylaw is more far-reaching than the province’s recently announced amendments, banning open drug use on sidewalks and in public parks, beaches, pools, community centres, libraries and arenas.

“We appreciate this provincial backstop, we appreciate that they heard us to some degree, but it's not enough," Neustaeter told Castanet Kamloops.

"It doesn't go far enough, and it doesn't answer the needs of community."

During a Union of B.C. Municipalities workshop Monday in Vancouver, local government officials discussed drug decriminalization. Many agreed they understood the rationale behind the policy, but argued municipalities haven’t received adequate provincial supports for mental health and addictions care.

Neustaeter said many of the delegates agreed the province’s amendments don’t address needs of local businesses, who have said that street disorder is limiting their ability to operate.

“That was acknowledged in that space — as was the need to protect things like bus shelters, where primarily seniors, students, children, young families, those who are experiencing poverty, use public transit, it is recognized that they are not safe right now because of this issue," she said.

"And yet the province chose not to include that."

Kamloops council approved the first three readings of its bylaw amendment last week.

Neustaeter said she views the bylaw as a first step on the way to other solutions.

“This is not meant to be punitive. This is not a measure we put in place because we expect ticketing to happen,” she said.

“I hope that we can get on the same page, by and large, locally so that people understand this is a tool that will hopefully leverage larger tools.”

Elle Brovold, CAO for the City of Campbell River, said she’s been happy with the response from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions since the city moved to introduce its own drug consumption bylaws earlier this year.

She said she was happy to hear about further legislation the province will be introducing around decriminalization, adding as this rolls out, the city will see if they need to have a second set of rules specific to Campbell River.

“Until we see what that legislation looks like, I’m not sure yet — but very happy to at least open the door to these important discussions with all the people that need to be in the room for them,” Brovold said.

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