FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Members of the public provided feedback about a proposed City Bylaw that would technically see the City ban safe injection sites or overdose prevention services, but allow for one to be built only after proper community consultation and approval from Council.
Current City bylaws allow for safe injection sites. After this proposed change, the City would only allow a facility to be built after community consultation and approval from Fort St. John City Council.
Several residents came forward expressing support, and many were against Safe Injection Sites.
Troy, who spoke in support of a safe injection site, said he has been an addict for over half his adult life, saying, “We don’t want any more of our friends and family passing away.”
Resident Kenny has a young family that said he is concerned the community doesn’t have the people in place to provide the support for those coming from outside Fort St. John to use the facility. He also expressed his concern that this would expose his children to drug use.
Mayor Lori Ackerman became emotional when speaking to the issue since her brother is an addict. “I have a brother that is an addict. There has to that balance. We are working on trying to find that balance for our community.”
Dr. Jong Kim, acting Chief Medical Health Officer for Northern Health, said that Fort St. John is the epicentre of drug overdoses in Fort St. John. “Our ambulance calls for overdoses are going up, our emergency visits for overdoses are going up, our overdose deaths are going up.”
Fort St. John has already seen 11 deaths in 2020, compared to 11 in 2019, 21 in 2018 and 30 in 2017.
At the end of the two-hour meeting, Fort St. John City Council decided to pass the bylaw change. Mayor Ackerman said it was a good conversation, and Council needs to be proactive as residents bring forward resolutions.
In June, there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. This represents a 130% increase over the number of deaths seen in June 2019. The number of deaths in each health authority is at or near the highest monthly total ever recorded.
Northern Health has the second-highest death rate in B.C. at 32 deaths per 100,000 people. Vancouver Coastal has the highest rate at 33 per 100,000.
Watch the entire public meeting below.