Richmond supervised consumption site motion’s language divisive, polarizing: councillor

A Richmond city councillor is sharing her beliefs about why a look into a proposed supervised consumption site in the city will not go ahead, after all.

Coun. Alexa Loo says the language used by council and city staff didn’t feel clear enough, and may have led to the large public outcry.

Loo voted against the motion that proposed exploring the possibility of creating the site. The motion was passed by city council earlier this week by a vote of 7-2, after two straight nights of highly emotional public hearings that included protests outside city hall and Richmond General Hospital.

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“I didn’t realize how polarizing and divisive it would be for the community and once we heard from people in the community of how divisive it was and how upsetting it was, I realized I really had to take a stand and vote against it,” said Loo.

Richmond City Councillor Alexa Loo.
Richmond City Councillor Alexa Loo. (CityNews Image)

“Had the motion been written differently it would have been far more palatable and amenable to everyone, something everyone could have gotten behind and felt like they were contributing to the well-being of everyone in Richmond, instead, it pitted everyone against each other.”

Loo believes the motion also lacked solutions.

“So, instead, if we had a more open-ended motion that asked for a range of solutions that are suitable to the context of Richmond, we would have had a far more welcoming conversation about that with everyone in the community because everyone would have felt they had something to contribute … because people want to find solutions. And it would not have felt so prescriptive, and it wouldn’t have felt it was being plunked into some people’s neighbourhoods.”

Amongst some chaotic scenes at city hall, there was also a confrontation between a woman and an opponent of the supervised consumption site, which saw a woman go on a racist tirade.

Footage posted on social media shows the white woman telling a man from Hong Kong that “he should go home.” She also accused the man of being “corrupt.”

But Loo is clarifying that she believes this debate has nothing to do with race.

“As we move forward, I think there are more processes to make sure we have more inclusive language or be less divisive. And it’s not just divisive amongst Asian and white people. I talked to plenty of Caucasian people, who have been long-time residents, who did not support the [supervised] consumption site. I don’t think it’s necessarily on a racial divide.”

She says council is on board to do more to help those struggling with addiction but isn’t sure what that will look like in the future.

On Wednesday, Vancouver Coastal Health said it would not be moving ahead with the stand-alone site, adding the site, “is not the most appropriate service for those at risk of overdose in Richmond.”

VCH says it will continue working with the city to “strengthen” overdose prevention services, but that a supervised consumption site won’t be included in possible solutions.

-With files from Srushti Gangdev and Hana Mae Nassar

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