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Official opposition leader stops in Abbotsford to discuss social issues with MLA Bruce Banman

Kevin Falcon meets with Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman
BC United leader Kevin Falcon (left) shares a laugh with Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman on May 17 in Abbotsford during a tour of the community. (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)

BC United leader Kevin Falcon is calling decriminalization “a risky experiment,” that will put children at risk in communities around the province.

The opposition leader spoke to media Wednesday during a visit to Abbotsford, alongside Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman.

“I keep asking them, ‘for God’s sakes, just make the right decision and put some guardrails in place’ so that this risky experiment of theirs doesn’t become a total disaster,” he said regarding the recent decriminalization of small amounts of drugs.

“At a minimum we have to protect our parks, playgrounds and beaches, especially as our kids are coming out of school in the next few weeks,” he said. “We cannot have them exposed to open drug use of heroin, crack cocaine, fentanyl and all the other dangerous drugs that could affect our children.”

BC United MLAs want to see those areas protected in the same way schools are, where open drug use is prohibited. That suggestion, Falcon said, is coming from municipalities who feel the decriminalization is “tone deaf” to what is happening in communities across the province.

“We have more mayors and councils stepping up here and saying they want to put bylaws in to prevent drug use in parts of public places,” he said, including Kamloops and Nanaimo.

But a provincewide ban would make more sense than offloading the work to municipalities, Falcon said.

“This is an easy decision,” he said. “Why are we having to argue with them for months about doing something that’s so obvious?”

It’s just one of the topics he’s talking to people about as he travels around this spring, as well crime, housing and “social chaos and disorder.”

“The situation is disastrous,” he said. “It’s awful. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”

British Columbia has the highest average rents in Canada, the highest housing prices in North America, and there is no change on the horizon, he added.

When he met with Banman they discussed decriminalization, and the party’s recent alternative model to dealing with the drug crisis, called Better Is Possible: A True System of Care. Their plan would overhaul the overburdened mental health system, he explained.

That includes tripling the beds at the Red Fish Healing Centre at Riverview and build additional regional centres using that model in the North, Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenays and Vancouver Island to ensure those requiring highly specialized mental health support can receive it close to home.

BC United is also calling for designated living units inside correctional centres as treatment centres, staffed with therapists alongside corrections officers.

“Our goal is to help people struggling with addiction, get off their addiction, not just give them more drugs and have our entire focus on just keeping them breathing, but actually help them get back to a better quality of life by helping them get off addictions,” he said.

Their plan would also include “compassionate involuntary treatment,” allowing the limited use of involuntary treatment at modernized, compassionate facilities with 24/7 psychiatric and medical supports.

While he said he knows the idea is controversial, he believes it’s the right thing to do. Especially as more and more young people are dying from overdose.

“Every time I hear about a young person dying, it absolutely breaks my heart,” he said.

The most recent data from the BC Coroner’s Service shows that this year alone so far, at least eight people 18 years of age or younger have died by overdose. In Abbotsford this year, at least 30 have died by overdose.


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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