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Campbell River council meets with mental health minister about public drug consumption bylaw

Minister to set up working group to address challenges
Campbell River City Hall. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

Campbell River City Council met with the mental health minister to discuss their proposed public nuisance amendment bylaw.

Mayor Kermit Dahl, council members and city manager Elle Brovold met with minister Jennifer Whiteside and North Island MLA Michele Babchuk on May 3 to discuss any potential collaborations on safe and effective approaches to address harms associated with substance use in the city. Council also spoke to Whiteside and Babchuk about the rationale behind their bylaw, which would prohibit the use of controlled substances in public spaces.

The city backed down its first attempt at passing this bylaw after facing a legal challenge from the Pivot Legal Society. The challenge was based on the grounds that it was outside the city’s jurisdiction to pass public health measures. The newest iteration of the bylaw focuses on protecting and enhancing community well-being rather than public health measures. It was given first and second readings on April 27.

According to a city press release, “Council identified a need for health services, including improved access to safe consumption sites, treatment and recovery options, as well as funding to ensure that these services are integrated in a way that limits the unintended financial and social consequences of these uses on the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Whiteside committed to creating a working group including representatives from First Nations, the ministry, Island Health, and the city to address concerns.

“Campbell River continues to experience increasing levels of public disorder due to substance use, mental health challenges and homelessness, and the related impacts on community safety and downtown revitalization efforts are significant,” said Dahl. “Following this meeting, the city and the ministry are in a better position to work together to address the community’s needs.”

This meeting came just before the city met with Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns, and Vice President, Population Health and Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health Dr. Reka Gustafson.

“Council … looks forward to their involvement in the working group,” the release says.


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