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Campbell River takes another stab at banning public drug consumption

Legal challenge, jurisdictional issues quashed first attempt so city proposing a new bylaw
City of Campbell River City Hall. Campbell River Mirror Photo

The City of Campbell River is going to take another stab at a nuisance bylaw aimed at protecting and enhancing “the well-being of the community by prohibiting the public consumption of controlled substances.”

Campbell River city council dropped on Feb. 23 a controversial previous version of a nuisance bylaw to ban public drug consumption throughout the city and directed city staff to come up with other options to tackle disruptive behaviour in the city’s downtown associated with addiction, mental health and homelessness. A pair of bylaws were purposefully defeated which would ban the consumption of illegal drugs in the city and impose a fine of up to $200.

READ MORE: City of Campbell River prepares for decriminalization by passing ban on public drug consumption

The bylaws were drafted after the federal government (Health Canada) announced that as of Jan. 31, 2023, British Columbians aged 18 and older will be allowed to carry up to 2.5 grams of street drugs – including cocaine and fentanyl – without fear of penalty or seizure, provided the drugs are for personal use. This exemption from federal drug laws came at the request of the province.

The city’s bylaws resulted in a court challenge from Pivot Legal Society out of Vancouver which filed a petition in B.C.. Supreme Court on Feb. 10 asking for a declaration that the bylaws were ultra vires or out of the city’s jurisdiction and were “unreasonable, contrary to the provisions of the Local government Act and Community Charter and were invalid.”

READ MORE: City of Campbell River rescinds adoption of controversial bylaws banning public drug consumption

City council was told, in essence, that the bylaw amendment was out of its jurisdiction because it attempted to implement public health measures without consulting public health officials, notably Island Health Medical Health Officer, Dr. Charmaine Enns, who attempted to intervene in the bylaw process before it was originally passed.

With that attempt quashed by the threat of a legal challenge and a reassessment of the original bylaw amendment, city staff have come back with a revised version that will take a different tack by focusing on protection and enhancement of community well-being rather than public health measures. It also forgoes the attempt to regulate the issue throughout the city and, instead, limits its reach to specific locations.

“Instead of the earlier ‘City-wide’ prohibition found in Bylaw 3884, the proposed bylaw amendment narrows the geographic scope of its application to the public locations that have or can be expected to have intensive use by members of the public and where the unregulated consumption of the controlled substances under the CBSA (Controlled Drugs and Substances Act) exemption can reasonably be expected to negatively interfere with the public’s use and enjoyment of such places,” Director of Community Safety, Peter Wipper says in a report to city council.

The reworked bylaw is on the agenda for the Thursday, April 27 regular city council meeting. The report outlines three options for council: adopt proposed Bylaw No. 3898; provide staff with direction to bring back further amendments; or take no further action at this time.

The proposed bylaw prohibits consumption within 15 metres or any playground, sports field, tennis court, picnic shelter, water park, skate park or covered bus shelter and on the parcels containing the following city facilities that are considered to be locations of importance to the city: City Hall, Community Centre, Sportsplex, Spirit Square, Centennial Building (Campbell River and District Public Art Gallery), Robert Ostler Park, library, Tidemark Theatre, Centennial Swimming Pool, Museum, Maritime Heritage centre and the Discovery Fishing Pier.

Alistair Taylor

About the Author: Alistair Taylor

I have been editor of the Campbell River Mirror since 1989. Our team takes great pride in serving our community.
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