Abbotsford mayor is open to needle exchange

Bruce Banman said city council will review the bylaw that bans such facilities and other forms of harm reduction.

Abbotsford council will revisit its bylaw which bans needle exchanges.

Abbotsford council will revisit its bylaw which bans needle exchanges.

Abbotsford will re-examine its harm reduction policy.

Mayor Bruce Banman said he plans to review the bylaw, which bans needle exchange facilities and other forms of harm reduction from operating in the city –  despite the fact he hasn’t seen a new report issued by Fraser Health.

In the report, which was made public on Monday, Fraser Health indicates that a minimum of 500 intravenous drug users could be served in the Abbotsford area and a program would likely distribute about 120,000 needles per year.

“In my opinion, we should be looking at that (needle exchange) – under controlled circumstances, of course,” said Banman.

He said a needle exchange would reduce the public’s potential harm from discarded needles and help keep track of who is using.

It would also put users in regular contact with health professionals, hopefully encouraging them to ask for help, Banman said.

“I’ve never met an addict who likes being an addict.”

Banman said he is not happy that the Fraser Health report has yet to cross his desk.

“Everybody else in the world has a copy of this report but us (the city),” he said.

In the report, David Portesi, public health director for Fraser Health, suggests three possible sites for a needle exchange facility – West Railway Street near the Salvation Army, in the area near Peardonville Road and South Fraser Way, or in the Jubilee Park area.

The report also suggests the exchange sites could be fixed or mobile, depending on the need.

Coun. Henry Braun said he is open to a review of the bylaw.

“I always approach everything with an open mind. This may come as a surprise to some people, but I actually think we have to do something different than what we’ve been doing.”

Braun said if a needle exchange is a way to help people get off of drugs and in an environment where there are health care professionals, he’s open to the idea.

He is currently involved with an addiction recovery ministry and said the topic of addiction is “near and dear” to his heart.

Coun. Patricia Ross was a member of the council that created the bylaw and feels it’s unfair how some have characterized the city. She said council didn’t approve of needle exchanges or injection sites, but there were other forms of harm reduction that were not being implemented or offered.

“We were concerned that needle exchange was a Band-Aid,” she said.

“We were in this catch-22 where we were being told, ‘Well, you’re not going to get anything else until you put in needle exchange’ and we said, ‘Well, these are the ones that really work.’ ”

She used Chilliwack as an example of a community that was “enticed” to get a needle exchange and then didn’t get anything else. She said they had a detox centre, approved a needle exchange and then Fraser Health pulled the detox centre.

Ross said she is not opposed to a review but believes public input is also needed.

Coun. Simon Gibson was also on council in 2005 and said he has some serious concerns that changing the bylaw “could make our community a centre for drug treatment programs.”

“Harm reduction won’t make Abbotsford safer and it won’t encourage addicts to seek help to abandon their habit,” said Gibson.

He said rather than a needle exchange, Abbotsford needs a “well-funded detox clinic.”

The Fraser Health report also lists the latest drug-related health stats for the area, and indicates that 29 Abbotsford residents are admitted annually to hospital due to overdoses, resulting in a hospitalization rate above that of Surrey, Burnaby or the regional average.

“It’s our belief that the lack of harm reduction services plays a part in those elevated rates,” Portesi said.

Abbotsford is the only city in the region that has a bylaw blocking harm reduction services.

If Fraser Health succeeds in plugging its big harm reduction gap in Abbotsford, Portesi then plans to try to get clean needles distributed in area prisons to slow the transmission of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood or bacterial infections there.

“Many of the inmates who are released often do settle in the Fraser East region,” he added.

Between 2006 and 2010, New Westminster had the highest average number of per capita admissions to hospital for drug overdoses – 23.6 per 100,000 population – compared to 21.9 for Abbotsford, 17.3 for Surrey and 11.4 for Burnaby. The Fraser Health average was 16.9.

Death rates from overdoses in Abbotsford were 8.08 per 100,000 over a similar five-year period, compared to 9.01 in Surrey, 11.07 in New Westminster, 11.79 in Vancouver and 4.89 in Burnaby.

The hepatitis C infection rate in Abbotsford in 2010 was 64.4 cases per 100,000, compared to a B.C. average of 54.9 and a national average of 33.7.

– With files from Jeff Nagel

Just Posted

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Emergency services were on the scene of an apparent stabbing Friday afternoon (June 11) in the 2400 block of Countess Street in Abbotsford. (Photo: Kaytlin Harrison)
Two suspects arrested after apparent stabbing in Abbotsford

Incident occurs Friday afternoon in 2400 block of Countess Street

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read