The recent attempts by IHA to force an Overdose Prevention Site on the city of Vernon strike me as a problematic symptom of a trend by the Provincial Government to intervene into what is essentially, and should remain, a civic decision.
I speak of the statements made in Council Chambers by Rae Sampson and Dr. Goodison which were less than subtle in terms of the intent of the Interior Health Authority to not only introduce an OPS into Vernon, but also to mandate which sector of the city would be the location.
One only needs to look at the myriad of issues that Calgary and Nanaimo have been dealing with to clearly see that a unilateral placement decision can have disastrous consequences.
Like many of you, I have lost young relatives to overdoses in the last two years. There is a great deal of merit to having an OPS, but there is a great deal of merit to consultation and consensus with the adjacent stakeholders who will have to live with the consequences of a cluster of shelters, low cost housing, and OPS’s, all within a few blocks of each other.
They are already cancelling leases; taking tremendous financial losses, and living in the excrement, discarded needles, and driving away of businesses after two years of this issue not being addressed, as it should be, by “boots on the ground.”
It has been stated that one of the determinants as to where these places will be is the reluctance of people seeking treatment, availing themselves of the service if they have to walk more than 10 minutes.
This was divulged to one of the businesses being canvassed by a person from IHA visiting her business a few weeks ago.
These decisions have to be based on the avoidance of further degradation of the downtown core, and not unduly influenced by the desire of the addicted to not being unduly inconvenienced by having to walk more than 10 minutes.
I applaud the advocacy of Scott Anderson, Dalvir Nahal, Kari Gares, and Brian Quiring in terms of not “knuckling under” to an imposition of a site without regard for the impacted nearby stakeholders, under the guise of a “medical emergency.”
For those of you old enough to remember, Pierre Elliott Trudeau brought in the War Measures Act in 1970 to skirt around the process of listening to whether it was the right thing to do in order to get what he wanted…right now!
It was later determined that was a measure that was a dangerous precedent.
Allowing the province, through the IHA to unilaterally walk roughshod over our people and our City Council, bears a lot of similarity to what Trudeau Senior did almost 50 years ago.
Think about it.