Two Saanich councillors are calling on their peers to take steps to address the drug overdose crisis and consider establishing safe consumption sites in the municipality – among other actions.
More than 1,500 B.C. residents died of an overdose in 2020 and “it is clear that new actions and approaches are urgently needed,” said Coun. Ned Taylor, adding Saanich has a role to play in addressing the crisis locally – for example, supporting the establishment of safe consumption sites – and advocating for higher levels of government to take action.
Taylor and Coun. Karen Harper submitted a notice of motion Jan. 11 outlining how they’d like to see Saanich address the crisis.
Taylor and Harper wish to see council direct staff to engage with local health agencies and non-profit organizations to “discuss whether Saanich could support safe consumption sites” and report back with potential actions.
Last night myself and Councillor @KarenInSaanich submitted the following Notice of Motion to #Saanich Council.— Ned Taylor - Saanich Councillor & CRD Director (@CouncllrNTaylor) January 12, 2021
The overdose crisis is taking lives on a daily basis. We need action now. #SafeConsumption #HarmReduction pic.twitter.com/rfjqUJHexv
The pair also want council to call on the federal government to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency, reaffirm past requests for action at the provincial and federal levels and appeal to the Canadian government to develop a national action plan that takes into account steps other countries have taken to reduce drug-related deaths. The councillors ask that Saanich voice support Vancouver’s decriminalization efforts, and call on other local governments in the region to take action.
Taylor said the requests in the notice of motion were developed with input from local experts who work with those impacted by the overdose crisis.
Harper emphasized it is an “investigative motion” to assess whether bringing safe consumption sites to Saanich is the right move.
Saanich is not immune to the overdose crisis, she said, adding that staff would report back with potential steps beyond advocating.
Discussions on safe consumption sites would be in-depth, Harper said. There are now vaccines for COVID-19, but there’s no vaccine for the overdose crisis and “it’s something we need to get a handle on,” she said.
Harper expects the motion to come before council in late February.