Town of Comox council (from left) Alex Bissinger, Ken Grant, Nicole Minions, Mayor Russ Arnott, Stephanie McGowan, Maureen Swift and Pat McKenna. Photo by Kim Stallknecht

Town of Comox council (from left) Alex Bissinger, Ken Grant, Nicole Minions, Mayor Russ Arnott, Stephanie McGowan, Maureen Swift and Pat McKenna. Photo by Kim Stallknecht

Comox council calls on B.C. to defer old-growth logging, decriminalize illicit drugs

The motion is similar to a resolution passed by Courtenay council

Similar to a resolution passed by Courtenay council, Comox council approved a motion for immediate protection for all at-risk old-growth forests in B.C.

At the May 5 council meeting, Coun. Stephanie McGowan proposed the motion that the Town of Comox call on the provincial government to immediately defer logging in all high productivity, rare, oldest and most intact old-growth forests as recommended by the Old-Growth Strategic Review until all 14 of the panel’s recommendations have been implemented.

Deferrals include at-risk, old-growth forests in the headwaters of Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew and in the Upper Walbran Valley.

Coun. Nicole Minions acknowledged the issue is contentious and that she can see both sides, however, she supported the motion but asked to change the wording.

RELATED: Courtenay council calls on B.C. to defer old-growth logging

“I think we’re all asking for is to consider waiting for the rest of the reports and science to come in … a softer version is what I would be comfortable with.”

She proposed an amendment to the motion that the town has concerns with the current practices at the current rate, which was approved unanimously.

The motion also included that the resolution will be sent to the Union of BC Municipalities and as a late submission to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities.

The Comox Valley Regional District board and Cumberland council have also agreed to write to the province to request similar actions.

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Council passed a second motion at the meeting to request that the Canadian government declare the toxic drug supply crisis a national public health emergency and to decriminalize illicit drugs.

Coun. McGowan proposed the motion at the meeting and told council the motion seeks input and asks to consider legal reforms.

“It’s been shown it’s not a criminal issue, but a health issue,” she added.

Coun. Ken Grant took issue with the call for decriminalization and said he worries it sends the wrong messages to kids, particularly those in high school.

“In my opinion, when you decriminalize something, you make it okay for someone to go try it out … we have some firsthand experience with this sort of thing, and it’s not as simple as you think. I get once you got people that are in that state, that may be a good thing, but there’s a whole other level here for me – I have some trouble with that piece.”

Coun. Pat McKenna acknowledged connotations around decriminalization but noted that if kids are going to try drugs, he would rather have them try a controlled pharmaceutical than a toxic street drug.

“I think that’s the intent of that motion. We were all teenagers and most of us tried stuff … I think about the deaths in B.C. – over 300 in the first three months of the year … you know it’s not about overdose, but the bad supply of drugs.”

McGowan clarified that decriminalization doesn’t mean legalization.

“It doesn’t mean there’s going to be meth and coke stores popping up on the corner. People who are caught with it or going through addiction … they’re going to be treated for medical and social issues rather than be thrown in jail. It just changes the narrative of how people look at those with subsistence abuse issues. Alcohol, cigarettes and now cannabis have all been legalized.”

The motion passed with Grant in opposition.

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