Sicamous leading the way in banning drug use in parks | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Sicamous leading the way in banning drug use in parks

While it’s no longer illegal to possess small amounts of opioids and certain other drugs in B.C., the question of where users can shoot up or consume remains cloudy.

In Sicamous, using such drugs in local parks is now banned, making it the first community in B.C. to institute such a prohibition.

“We want to protect our children and, as elected officials, to protect our community,” Sicamous Mayor Colleen Anderson told iNFOnews.ca. “We just feel this is a better choice for us. It’s a safety issue."

Sicamous council unanimously passed its bylaw on Wednesday. Although final adoption is still to come, Anderson said the ban is now in effect.

There are no fines attached to the new rules but people can be ordered to leave parks if they are using, smoking or injecting illicit drugs in named community parks.

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Campbell River proposed a similar ban last month but, according to a Victoria Times-Colonist article, dropped the idea in the face of opposition from Island Health and the threat of a lawsuit from Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society.

Penticton council is also considering a similar bylaw.

If adopted, Penticton would ban the "display or use" of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia, except in areas designated for that use.

The designated areas include places where health care workers engage in harm reduction work and safe consumption sites, the bylaw says.

Council gave first reading to that bylaw on Tuesday and referred it to Interior Health for comment.

Anderson said the Sicamous bylaw was not triggered by any specific incident but drug paraphernalia is sometimes found in local parks and noted that “all of us have been touched by drug issues.”

Anderson complained that there was no formal notification of the change in the law and no education, especially for children.

“It’s traumatic,” she said. “They don’t understand what’s going on.”

A Union of B.C. Municipalities webinar on Feb. 15 did provide some information for local communities. It included a Province of B.C. backgrounder on the decriminalization efforts.

“For youth, witnessing public substance use is less important than witnessing use by parents and peers,” is part of the government’s message.

It also says local governments should avoid passing bylaws to restrict drug use, with the exception of indoor smoking, out of concerns that people will continue to consume alone, which greatly increases the risk of overdose deaths.

“In many cases, illegal drug use continues to be prohibited on private property, including places like shopping malls, bars and cafes,” the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said in an email to iNFOnews.ca. “Public intoxication – whether by drugs or alcohol – remains illegal.

“Decriminalization will not change the ability of local governments to pass bylaws, however it is important that they consult their local Medical Health Officer and seek to balance the goals of public health and public safety when it comes to the issue of public consumption of legal and illegal substances.”

The province launched its three-year decriminalization pilot project on Jan. 31 in an effort to combat the toxic drug crisis that has claimed around 2,300 lives in each of the past two years.

The drugs are not actually legal but users will not be arrested for possessing 2.5 grams or less of opioids, crack or powdered cocaine, methamphetamines or MDMA.


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