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Kelowna News

No to drugs but yes to booze in Kelowna parks

Mayor Tom Dyas

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas wants illicit drug use to be banned in all parks and playgrounds in B.C. as the province moves into its three-year pilot project on decriminalization of small amounts of certain drugs.

On the other hand, he also wants to open some city beaches to public consumption of alcohol.

And he doesn’t believe that those two efforts are contrary to each other.

“What we have done is voiced our concerns and are adding our voice with some other municipalities around the province who have asked the province to look at including playgrounds and public parks to areas where consumption of drugs would not be allowed," he told

As of January 31, people are not to be arrested for possessing 2.5 grams or less of opioids, crack or powdered cocaine, methamphetamines or MDMA as part of the province’s three-year pilot program to battle B.C.'s opioid crisis.

The rules around that pilot project say the drugs are still not allowed “on the premises of elementary and secondary schools and licensed child-care facilities,” at airports or on Canadian Coast Guard vessels and helicopters.

“We are asking them to add to that list parks and playgrounds,” Dyas said. “There is a greater chance that a child would come into contact with syringes, or foil used for smoking or other potentially dangerous drug paraphernalia. We want this to be consistent and harmonized throughout the province.”

He talked to a number of provincial ministers and ministry staff when he was in Victoria a couple of weeks ago and made that request.

He was told other communities had been asking for the same thing.

He didn’t get any confirmation that the province will ask Health Canada to make the change but “they thought it was potentially a fair request and something they would look at,” Dyas said.

If nothing changes, the request will continue to be part of the city’s “messaging” to the province but Kelowna is not planning to introduce a bylaw to that effect as some communities have done.

READ MORE: Sicamous leading the way in banning drug use in parks

When asked by if he supported the decriminalization pilot program, Dyas did not give a clear yes or no answer.

“What some other countries have done, when people are possessing or using illicit drugs, they were then put in front of a panel of social workers and medical professionals and drug experts,” he said. “These panels started to refer these individuals to other programs. They weren’t handing out fines but were referring them to other programs that could help them with what they were experiencing.”

Despite the B.C. government saying it will offer users information about health and social supports, there’s just not enough available, Dyas argued.

An example of that is the fact the city has asked for 20 complex care beds but, so far, only have five, he said.

"You're not giving someone that freedom to consume the drugs because, in that particular area, it is a health related issue,” Dyas said. “The concern is, from their (province’s) standpoint, you’re giving people records, you’re ruining people’s lives, there’s that stigmatization in regards to it. In speaking with a number of individuals, they were saying we truly haven’t basically given out tickets in awhile for particular drugs, because we understand the need for them to consume because of the mental health issue.”

Drinking alcohol in public places – or at least on city beaches – is not seen by Dyas as a mental health issue.

A few weeks ago he asked city staff to draft regulations that would allow drinking on some beaches on a trial basis. He expects that report to come back to council in the next week or two.

READ MORE: It's going to be legal to drink at beaches in Summerland this summer

“We’re looking at a situation where, if somebody decided to have a glass of wine on the beach, then they could potentially get charged for that and they would have a record for something as simple as having a glass of wine with someone,” Dyas said.

Details have not yet been completed but could include things like no glass containers and certain time periods for consumption, he said.

If people became excessively noisy or drunk, there are laws in place to deal with that.

“From the standpoint of an average individual just wanting to go down and sit and have a beer and you are charged for that?” Dyas said. “Do we want to do that to our citizens if they just want to enjoy a lifestyle?”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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