Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells is happy the province took a stance against drug use in certain public spaces.
Effective Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, possession of illicit drugs is prohibited within 15 metres of any play structure in a playground, a spray or wading pool, or a skate park. Wells said this is a good move.
“Families and children want to feel safe, and this is something that gives a measure of that,” he said.
The Courtenay mayor said the changes come directly from governments listening to the concerns of their communities.
“First and foremost, I want to thank our residents,” said Wells. “This is a result of people coming to me (and other local governments) and relating their concerns to myself, and then in turn me being able to relay this to our premier and our ministers, to let them know about these serious concerns our residents have.
“I know for some people this didn’t happen as quickly as they’d like it to be, for the government this is pretty nimble and pretty quick to roll out something like decriminalization… and then to take feedback from citizens and mayors across the province and implement changes to make sure this is as successful as possible.”
Wells said enforcement of the new law will be the responsibility of the RCMP.
“The province said this gives the RCMP and local police forces the authority to enforce this, so it is not going to be falling onto the cities to have bylaw officers look into it,” he said. “That was one of the first questions we had.”
Wells added that the needs of people with substance use issues must still be considered.
“Me and my council were very clear that this has to be done in step with funding more treatment, places for safe consumption, safe supply, and really addressing the toxic drug and opioid overdose crisis.”
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Jennifer Whiteside, has similar priorities.
“Our government is committed to breaking down barriers and connecting people to the supports they need,” she said. “We requested this amendment from Health Canada to ensure that families feel safe in their community while continuing to use every tool available to fight the toxic drug crisis and save lives.”
Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health Ya’ara Saks also agrees.
“Everyone, especially children, should feel safe in their communities,” said Saks. “This cannot be forgotten as we continue to work relentlessly to reduce substance use-related harms. This amendment ensures that law enforcement has the tools needed to address public drug-use concerns, while continuing to provide support for some of the most vulnerable people in our community who use drugs.”
The Record reached out to the Comox Valley RCMP for comment but did not hear back by press deadline.
-With files from the Government of BC