Public hearing on harm reduction will be held Monday evening

Council is considering removing bylaw prohibiting harm reduction measures

Abbotsford's controversial bylaw prohibiting services such as needle exchanges will be discussed at a public hearing Monday.

Abbotsford's controversial bylaw prohibiting services such as needle exchanges will be discussed at a public hearing Monday.

After years of debate over Abbotsford’s bylaw preventing harm reduction measures, the city will once again listen to the views of the public at a hearing on Jan. 13.

In early December, council passed the first reading of an amendment that would remove restrictions on services such as needle exchanges and mobile dispensing vans.

The change would require an amendment to the city’s zoning bylaw, requiring the issue to go to public hearing before a final decision is made.

The anti-harm reduction bylaw was created in 2005, and the city has been reviewing the issue since 2010, when the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) urged the city to reconsider, citing among its concerns Abbotsford’s hepatitis C infection rate, which is higher than regional, provincial and national averages.

Two well-attended public forums were held in early 2013, where public views on the bylaw were mixed.

The bylaw amendment would also include the creation of a “good neighbour agreement” that would help mitigate the impact of harm reduction services, including determining hours and locations, and the efforts to deal with potential impacts like disorder, complaints and criminal activity.

The public hearing takes place during the regular council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13 at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, 32315 South Fraser Way.