A bylaw to prohibit drug use in some public places is just one vote away from becoming reality in Campbell River.
On Thursday, council gave third reading to a proposed amendment to the public nuisance bylaw which would prohibit drug use within 15 metres of most public spaces where children and families gather, including playgrounds and bus shelters as well as the Sportsplex, Nunns Creek Park, Ostler Park, Spirit Square, Tidemark Theatre and library.
It was supported unanimously.
Councilor Tanille Johnson says she wants to see training for bylaw officers to help them be culturally sensitive while enforcing the bylaw.
“I just think it’s important it we’re going to be implementing a bylaw that’s directly going to impact an extremely vulnerable population, that we’re supporting our bylaw officers to be able to do that to the best of their abilities, and with as much knowledge and education as we can be able to support them to have,” she says.
City manager Elle Brovold says the city is considering her recommendations and will have more details for council when the bylaw is brought back for adoption.
More concerns from businesses, sports teams
The city has received many letters from downtown businesses who have struggled to manage issues arising from drug use and homelessness.
“Those of who work downtown, we are afraid to work with our doors unlocked. Customers and clients regularly tell us they don’t like coming to our office anymore. There are fights in the streets regularly – we can hear them while we run our meetings. On a daily basis we show up to work and have to clear the passed out people from our doorways. Last week, our building was broken into,” says Kim Emsley-Leik. “As I walk into work every morning, over the past three years for sure, and most certainly it has gotten worse the past two years, I really have to wonder how did we get here. We have a provincially funded safe injection site right next door to a sober assessment society. We have provincial funded buildings housing these people all located downtown. All of the services that these people need to access have been put right in the middle of our downtown core, and I am wondering how this even came to be in the first place.”
Drug use and children’s safety isn’t just a downtown issue. Several years ago minor baseball teams requested to be allowed to play at the Sportsplex instead of Nunns Creek Park because of ongoing issues with drug use, garbage, and concerning behaviour from people associated with a camp in the nearby woods. Now it’s spreading north – Ricky Millns, head coach of the Salmon Kings swim club, says since the outdoor pool opened this summer at Centennial Park, he and other coaches have had to take on the role of cleaning up drug paraphernalia, broken glass and garbage to keep kids safe.
“The breaking point that led me to decide to write this letter was when I learned that at one of our practices last week, an individual walked into the park and sat down just a few meters away from one of our swimmers who was waiting for a parent to pick them up from the pool and proceeded to inject themselves with a syringe. The individual proceeded to overdose and was delivered a Naloxone dose by another individual. All of this, just meters away from a 9-year-old child reading a book in the park,” he says. “I think the question we need to be asking ourselves about all this, is, ‘are we okay exposing our youth to this?’ “
If approved, the bylaw will be enforced through education and re-direction for six months, before the city considers writing tickets. Council will hold a final vote later this summer.