Petition opposing Richmond supervised drug consumption site reaches 17,000 signatures

Tensions ran high in Richmond as city council heard from the public about a proposed supervised consumption site. Monika Gul has the latest.

Ahead of a vote in Richmond, a petition against a proposed supervised drug consumption site had gathered more than 17,000 signatures by Monday morning.

The online petition is backed by many residents who believe the construction of a safe injection site in their community would lead to an increase in crime and public drug use.

“We understand that those struggling with addiction need help and support but introducing such facilities might not be the best solution for everyone involved – especially when considering its potential negative impacts on communities like ours,” wrote Gady Tse, who started the petition on February 4.

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A former Richmond city council candidate has been making the same arguments while leading a group opposed to the proposal, raising concerns about public safety.

“I don’t believe that putting a safe consumption site in Richmond is a solution to help people. I believe we should focus more on building treatment and rehab centres,” Sheldon Starret told CityNews.

“These people’s lives are worthy of dignity. They are not bad people, we should not stigmatize them and they need help, but if we put in an injection site, we are just enabling the drug user,” he said.

Starret says many people in Richmond’s city centre are concerned a safe consumption site will attract more “transient drug users” from other parts of the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“Richmond is not equipped to deal with the issues these people have. We don’t even have any treatment centres or places to house these people.”

Starret adds that many residents feel the city is not listening to their concerns.

“We would expect the city to reach out and work with people in the community more.”

Richmond city council is set to vote Monday night on whether to move forward with the proposal for a supervised consumption site in the city to help deal with the opioid crisis.

Coun. Kash Heed helped table the motion to explore the idea at last week’s meeting.

“We are trying to ensure that we have treatment available for these people who at one point in their life will want to get out of the predicament they are in because if they don’t, they are going to die,” he told CityNews.

“We get them into some type of health contact and at the same time remove them from consuming their drugs in public spaces. It’s a win-win, not only for the addicted users whose lives we are trying to save, but certainly also for the communities and taxpayers.”

The motion says supervised consumption sites provide a safe and controlled environment for people to use drugs, reducing overdose and risk of death. It explains health officials are stationed at the sites to provide medical assistance, and they are also trained with naloxone to help reverse opioid overdoses.

It also says studies have shown these sites can be cost-effective in the long run, reducing expenses associated with first responders, emergency room visits and infectious diseases.

DJ Larkin, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, says a new site would be good for the City of Richmond.

“A site in Richmond would mean less public drug consumption, less litter, less likelihood of communicable disease transmission, and fewer deaths,” Larkin said.

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