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Passions flare at Vernon town hall meeting

Roughly 160 people attended Vernon's town hall meeting, June 4.
June 04, 2019 - 9:46 PM

VERNON - With two minutes to spend at the microphone, several dozen speakers took to the stand making emotional speeches and airing their grievances at Vernon's highly anticipated town hall.

The first participant at the City of Vernon's town hall meeting to discuss the proposed safe injection site set some of the tone for the evening’s meeting.

“I grew up in this town and watched it completely deteriorate,” a gentleman who didn't identify himself said at the mic. “The injection site is just another word for government funded crack shack.”

And while speakers spoke against opening a site, most appeared to favour it, just not downtown.

The adjudicator at the town hall meeting held June 4, at the Vernon Recreation Centre, made it very clear the public was there to give ideas, solutions and opinions and council would not be engaging in a discussion.

With two minutes at the microphone an array of business owners took to the floor and told endless tales of cleaning up feces and needles from their doorway, spending money on security and being robbed countless times. Some complained the issues their downtown business faced were now being seen at their suburban homes.

The issue of where an Interior Health Authority safe injection site should be located raised plenty of statements from people who didn't want the hospital “to become a hangout for drug addicts” to those who supported the hospital as the prime location where health care services are located.

A variety of people spoke against a safe injection site opening at all.

It was clearly pointed out by several speakers that the core issues of poverty, housing, addiction and crime were federal and provincial responsibilities and not the City of Vernon's, but neither MLA Eric Foster nor MP Mel Arnold were present at the town hall.

While the meeting's facilitator CTQ Consultants asked for solutions, a wide range were presented.

From a bylaw mandating garbage bins be locked to prevent dumpster diving, to the safe injection site being a mobile site, imposing tougher vagrancy and trespass bylaws, to employing more bylaw officers.

Several people from the roughly 160 strong crowd spoke with tears in their eyes.

“This town has turned into a hell hole,” one lady told the crowd. “Who is going to feel sorry for us?”

“There needs to be consequences to their addictions and their actions,” another told the crowd.

“These people can not take responsibility, they are just trying to survive,” was another response.

Several people pointed out Vernon lacked detox services, which are critical to help people who are addicted and others spoke against “re-inventing the wheel” and look to cities that had dealt with the same issues with success.

It was highlighted by many that the problems facing Vernon were being faced by other cities across B.C. and Canada.

Council will receive a summary report of the town hall in the future.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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