Harm reduction bylaw to be reconsidered

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said he will bring back before council the 2005 bylaw, which prohibits needle exchanges in the city

As Abbotsford is making headlines and becoming talk radio fodder for its harm reduction bylaw that prohibits needle exchanges in the city, Mayor Bruce Banman served notice to council that he will bring the bylaw back to the council table to be reconsidered, as is the mayor’s privilege.

At an executive committee meeting, Banman said he would like the bylaw to be debated after the city receives input from the public and stakeholders, and at a time when the entire council is present – likely after the summer.

Coun. Simon Gibson was on a radio talk show recently, defending council’s position on not allowing harm reduction, and calling for drug treatment facilities.

After the meeting, Banman said he brought the issue forward because some councillors have indicated the 2005 bylaw should be revisited.

He said the Fraser Health Authority has brought the issue to light, and it is giving the city bad press.

On the other hand, he acknowledged that reducing one case of AIDS or one case of Hepatitis C could pay for an entire needle exchange program through health care savings.

“If Fraser Health believes in this so strongly, they have the right to give needles away at the hospital,” said Banman. “Why don’t they?”

In the mayor’s opinion, a needle exchange is a “Band-aid solution.”

“You have to have detox, and you need a place for them to go,” he said. “Telling them to detox at home, when they live under a bridge, doesn’t work.”

He believes the 2005 bylaw was passed as a “tough love” approach by the council of the day, who apparently felt “the easier you make it for drug addicts, the more drug addicts there are going to be.”