One Port Hardy councillor, Pat Corbett-Labatt, commented last week about public intoxication during the all candidates session. She had quite a bit to say on the matter. “For those of you that don’t know, a number of people came to the District of Port Hardy’s council meeting as a delegation about public intoxication,” she said.
The Port Hardy councillor then continued, “As a result, it was taken to the Wellness First Committee, and we’re working with various community members. Trying to come up with different ways and means to deal with public intoxication that’s effective.”
The topic of public intoxication is a tricky one, that’s for sure. That doesn’t mean it’s something that we shouldn’t talk about or simply leave on the shoulders of the police. Many candidates and councillors echoed the same sentiment, Corbett-Labatt included, about how municipalities aren’t really in a position to tackle this issue, but it is such an in-your-face problem that something has to be done by council.
The Wellness First Committee along with the Mount Waddington Health Network is simply one way to address the ongoing problem of drunk and disorderly conduct. What it comes down to is council working together with the RCMP in an innovative way. For example, RCMP have now been conducting more street patrols in the town. Town council has also cut down shrubbery in areas which were coincidentally typical places to drink outside.
Finding a solution to the issue involves finding unique and better ways to address the lack of resources for individuals who have chronic addictions and in some cases mental illnesses. Some people might agree to just throw them in jail for the night, but that’s an even worse way to use local resources. While it may not be the most popular idea, council could possibly create a new bylaw on panhandling in public areas. And while this may be an even less popular idea – the community could advocate for what is known as a “wet house” or a designated place to consume alcohol in a regulated way with health care professionals present. Although this may worsen the problem too by making things harder for the RCMP. But all of these methods must be part of an approach that views the individual as someone with an addiction.
What’s important to realize is that whether mayor and council can actually do anything in terms of practical, hands-on ways, they do have a duty to try to address the issue in some way. Even if that means working in the Wellness First Committee in a high-level way or advocating for local non-profit organizations in finding solutions. Public intoxication is a controversial issue with many sides to it, but the side that should be the most important is this – these addicted people need help, and they need it quick.