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Campbell River formally passes controversial public drug consumption ban

Bylaw prohibits consumption of controlled substances in specific city-owned public spaces

Campbell River City Council formally passed its controversial public nuisance amendment bylaw that prohibits the consumption of drugs in specific city-owned public spaces.

“Now that we’ve passed a bylaw, we’ve given the RCMP and our bylaw enforcement staff with a tool that they can use. And I’m hoping they’re going to use it judiciously. But nevertheless, it’s there to be used,” Coun. Doug Chapman said at the July 20 city council meeting.

Council gave bylaw No. 3898 third reading at the July 20 meeting and said in a regular meeting summary circulated publicly that the bylaw “is an important step in promoting the use and enjoyment of public spaces by the entire community and moving the dial on downtown revitalization efforts. The city is actively working with law enforcement, other levels of government and community partners on a range of intiatives that work towards council’s Strategic Priority: Health and Safe Community.”

The bylaw prohibits consumption of controlled substances in specific city-owned public spaces where children and families carry out recreational or leisure activities. Enforcement of the bylaw will be managed through education and redirection for six months, with city staff to report back to council. Individuals arrested under the bylaw will be directed to the Overdose Prevention Site at 1330 Dogwood St. when necessary as a harm-reduction measure.

Councillors also asked staff to highlight informational resources on decriminalization available to residents from the provincial government. That information is available online at

Councillors tabled a letter from a member of the public that exemplified their justification for the bylaw. Read the letter here.

Mayor Kermit Dahl referred to the letter in a statement at the end of the meeting.

“I’m going to read one sentence from this, because I get to read a lot of emails,” the mayor said. “And I think this one applies to a lot of people who have had questions. It reads, ‘I’m confused about the need to amend a bylaw to prohibit illegal drug use in specific public places. I would think that similar to other controlled substances, like alcohol and marijuana, the use of illicit drugs would always be illegal in public spaces. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way it is. Alcohol and marijuana are both legal. And as they were made legal, the government put regulations in place.

“‘When the illicit drugs were decriminalized, the act of possessing them was illegal. So the act of consuming them in public places was illegal, because the simple possession stopped the consumption. So when they were decriminalized, there was no laws in our criminal act to deal with illicit drug use in public places. Because, as I said, simple possession was illegal. And that was the deterrent. So when the province removed that, our RCMP and bylaw had no tools in place to deal with the things that were going on.’

“So I just hope by us pulling this one letter,” the mayor continued, “people – if there’s any that are watching this (on the city meeting webcast) – gain, a slight understanding more of the reason that we have been working on this since the end of January.”

This was city council’s second attempt to pass a bylaw countering the province’s decriminalization of the possession of small quantities of controlled substance (2.5 grams). When the bylaw was first proposed on Feb. 23 it gained the city some notoriety around the province. It was one of the first municipal governments to try and implement counter measures to an exemption Health Canada granted to the Province of British Columbia. That exemption decriminalizes the possession of up to 2.5 grams of street drugs, provided they are for personal use.

The bylaw as originally worded came under a legal challenge based on the position that the city was overstepping its jurisdictional boundaries. Council dropped that version and replaced it with a modified version that was more limited in scope and more specific in terms of where it would apply.

Read more:

Possession of 2.5 grams of illicit drugs to be decriminalized in B.C.

City of Campbell river prepares for decriminalization by passing ban on public drug consumption

‘Hasty’ drug use ban won’t serve community well – medical health officer says

City of Campbell River’s bylaw banning public drug consumption challenged in court

City of Campbell River takes another stab at ban on public drug consumption

Bylaw banning public drug consumption has no benefit for Campbell River: medical health officer


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