Salmon Arm  

Mayor of Sicamous says drug use bylaw to stay despite IH call to 'wait and see'

Sicamous won't back down

The mayor of Sicamous says there won't be any backtracking on a bylaw banning open drug use in district parks.

The municipality was one of the first in B.C. to pass such a bylaw following decriminalization by the province of personal amounts of street drugs.

Mayor Colleen Anderson says the bylaw was passed by council last week and will stay in place, despite a plea from Interior Health for communities to take a wait-and-see approach before enacting laws that could undermine the intent of the change.

IH has called for a "six-month observation period" to monitor the effects of decriminalization on public consumption.

Its April 14 letter was sent to every municipality in the IH region and signed by six medical health officers.

But Anderson says the latest figures show decriminalization isn't working, with nearly 600 drug deaths in B.C. during the first three months of the year.

"It's not getting any better," she said Friday. "Three months into this project, and things are looking worse than they were three months ago."

While Kelowna is pushing for decriminalization rules to ban drug use in playgrounds, Sicamous' bylaw is specific to parks.

"Our beach park, we have 100 kids there every day during summer, more than the playground," Anderson said.

"Parks are for families."

She said children witnessing someone shooting heroin would be "traumatizing."

Anderson says council has consulted with IH, but won't be backing down.

"Waiting six months, that's well into our summer," she said.

"Our hearts go out to these people, but we have no services for them in Sicamous. ...It isn't a big problem in Sicamous, and we don't want it to be one."

The mayor said the local RCMP have told her they haven't pursued small possession charges "for years."

"It was a non-issue ... it feels like a bit of social engineering is going on."

Anderson says Sicamous bylaw staff won't be ticketing anyone and will focus on education.

"The reason we were elected was the safety and well-being of our community. I don't think this train can be stopped."

B.C. launched the three-year pilot on Jan. 30. It allows adults to freely possess less than 2.5 grams of street drugs including heroin, meth and cocaine.

Penticton has also started the process of bringing in a bylaw to ban drug use in parks.

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