The next step has been taken to help keep areas safe for young Nelsonites.

Third reading has been given on a bylaw in response to growing concerns regarding the consumption of controlled substances in public spaces — particularly parks — following the provincial implementation of the decriminalization of people who use drugs in B.C.

The purpose of the Parks Amendment (Public Nuisance) Bylaw amendment is for the “protection and enhancement of the wellbeing” of the community by prohibiting the public consumption of controlled substances in city parks.

The proposed bylaw will assist City bylaw enforcement officers and police in reducing those impacts, to address the challenge of public consumption of illicit substances by focusing on high exposure areas. 

What we are talking about here is maintain safe spaces for kids, said Coun. Kate Tait when the amendment was introduced for third reading.

“We are a caring community. We care about our kids, we care about all residents of our community,” she said.

Coun. Rik Logtenberg agreed. 

“And I think that we need to, as a council and as a City, we need to engage better with the community and this has given us an opportunity to do that, as well as recognize that the goals of decriminalization are not being met currently with the status quo,” he said.

“I think, moving forward, this (bylaw) will help meet the goals of decriminalization. It is definitely better for our community.”

The bylaw amendment could go further, said Coun. Jesse Woodward. He felt it was the bare minimum that council could do on the issue.

“Under the conditions that we find ourselves as a council, considering the fentanyl emergency that has been declared by the province, it’s not like we have a whole lot of tools … is to lay out here the bare minimum for the whole community’s safety, for all citizens,” he said. “When and if the Provincial government comes up with new legislation we will have to revisit this.”

When the Province comes forward with new legislation was when the City should act, said Coun. Keith Page. He felt the City should wait until that legislation comes out.

“I don’t see where we have figured out the safe consumption site side of this. We are in the position of saying that we don’t want to have a particular activity in an area … but we don’t have an active safe inhalation site available in the community to refer people to,” he said.

Despite Page and Coun. Leslie Payne’s objections, the bylaw amendment passed for third reading and now awaits adoption.

Decriminalized

In response to the toxic drug crisis on Jan. 31, the Province’s exemption to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act came into effect. 

This meant adults 18 and older would not be charged for possession of 2.5 grams or less of illicit drugs for personal use and the drugs will not be seized. Trafficking remained illegal. 

Illicit drugs include: opioids (heroin, fentanyl); crack; powder cocaine; MDMA (ecstasy); and methamphetamines. 

Decriminalization does not apply to elementary and secondary schools, and licensed childcare facilities, or airports, and on Canadian Coast Guard vessels and helicopters. 

“The Province also notes that there may be a need for reasonable limits on drug use in certain public spaces, and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has commented that local governments have regulatory tools to address issues related to public substance use, such as nuisance bylaws,” noted City director of Corporate Services, Sarah Winton, in her report to City council.

Source: City of Nelson agenda, July 25

Off limits

The Parks Amendment (Public Nuisance) Bylaw proposes to amend the City of Nelson Parks Bylaw by adding the definition of illicit drugs and then setting out the parks where the use of illicit drugs is prohibited.

These locations have been selected as they are the park spaces most used by children on a regular basis for recreational and other leisure activities.

The proposed bylaw does not prohibit use of illicit drugs in all park spaces in the City. 

The parks covered by the bylaw include: 

– Gyro Park and Municipal Campground;

– Cottonwood Park;

– Rosemont Park;

– Lakeside Park, except land adjacent to Duck Bay;

– Hall Street Pier;

– Hall Street Plaza;

– Civic Centre;

– Nelson and District Community Complex (NDCC);

– Queen Elizabeth Park; 

– Scout Hall (10 metre radius);

– Chatham Street Park; and

– Lions Park.

Source: City of Nelson, July 25 agenda

By Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 11, 2023 at 03:08

This item reprinted with permission from   The Nelson Daily   Nelson, British Columbia
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