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Campbell River welcomes new drug prohibitions, but treatment desperately needed

Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast politicians are welcoming changes prohibiting drug possession near public places where children gather.

On Monday, possession of illicit drugs will be prohibited within 15 metres of playgrounds, pools, splash and skate parks.

Campbell River city councilor Ben Lanyon, who has kids of his own, says the new rule is welcome but more needs to be done.

“To me it’s very clear what we need – we need treatment,” he says. “The inflow rate of people into addiction is higher than the outflow, so we just end up with an ever-increasing population of people struggling.”

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Lanyon says the ongoing overdose crisis affects local businesses but also leaves vulnerable people at risk without options to get well.

“From a societal level, that’s really hard on commerce and small towns, big towns. On the individual level, that’s just increased suffering and additional layers of trauma for people who are living on the streets, so it hurts everybody.”

Campbell River passed its own bylaw prohibiting drug use in some public places earlier this summer, after being the first in BC to explore the option when the provincial drug-decriminalization pilot project began in January. After a legal challenge and long discussions with Island Health, the city amended its public nuisance bylaw to prohibit open drug use in most public places. Other communities have since followed suit.

Most Island mayors and politicians interviewed by Vista Radio about the new rule say it will help, but agree with Lanyon that it’s up to provincial and federal governments to provide long-term treatment and recovery for people suffering from addiction.

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Mainland mayors are also saying the changes coming Monday are not enough.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West wonders why the change doesn’t include sports fields, where kids play soccer and baseball.

Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison says she’d like to see an exemption that includes recreation centers.

And Vancouver’s Mayor Ken Sim says he’s like to see the ban extended to libraries and transit stations.

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Beginning Monday police across BC can seize opioids, cocaine, meth, and MDMA, most commonly linked to overdoses, which they find on anyone within 15 metres of the identified areas.

They can also arrest and recommend possession charges.

Public intoxication remains illegal.

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