Dee Klein, who has owned property and operated businesses for more than 40 years in the Old City Quarter, was one of a number of merchants and residents in the area who expressed their opposition to a permanent supervised consumption site on Wesley Street at a city rezoning bylaw public hearing Monday. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Community isn’t sold on safe-consumption site

City of Nanaimo holds public hearing on rezoning bylaw for permanent supervised drug consumption

Nanaimo has got drug problems, and they were discussed openly this week.

The City of Nanaimo held a public hearing Monday night regarding a rezoning bylaw that would allow the temporary supervised-drug-consumption site at 437 Wesley St. to become a permanent location for the service. Following the hearing, councillors voted against allowing the bylaw to pass third reading.

About a dozen people spoke at the hearing, held in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre’s Shaw Auditorium. Nearly all were opposed to the bylaw, arguing that crime and other problems stemming from drug use are already increasingly visible in the neighbourhood.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health’s chief medical health officer for central Vancouver Island, said making the temporary supervised-consumption site permanent would be a “maturation” for the facility and allow for more provision of services and treatment options.

“Clearly [Wesley Street] is the best option that’s been put forward by the team that is looking at where should the site go,” he said. “There is no perfect site.”

Business owners said past efforts to beautify Wesley Street are being undone by drug users.

“This whole situation has taken us back over 20 years. We’re starting all over again…” said Wes Strickland, a local business owner. “[With] what we’re dealing with – the defecation, the urination, the people being assaulted – we’re constantly having to call the RCMP. We actually have them on a speed dial to come down to our restaurant.”

Another business owner, Dee Klein, also opposed the permanent safe-consumption site, pointing to increased homelessness, crime and discarded syringes in the area, and said she doesn’t think anything else should be “inflicted” on the neighbourhood’s stakeholders and taxpayers.

“It can’t turn into an east end,” she said.

Representatives from three different neighbourhood associations spoke against the rezoning bylaw. Eric McLean, president of the Old City Quarter Association, wants more evidence that proposed measures such as enhanced security, more bylaw enforcement and policing, and cleanup efforts are working. Sydney Robertson of the South End Community Association made similar requests and asked for decentralization of social services. Tereza Bajan, a director with the Neighbours of Nob Hill Society, said there needs to be more public consultation before any decision is made.

“It seems like the politicians and the addicts are all looking for a quick fix on this serious problem,” she said.

One of the only voices in favour of the permanent supervised-consumption site was Jody Sawchyn, a local nurse who said the service enables health-care providers to develop relationships and trust with drug users to help them work toward goals of treatment and recovery.

Coun. Gord Fuller said the city needs to look beyond just 437 Wesley St.

“My personal belief is not only should Wesley have an overdose protection of safe injection, Uplands should, Boundary should, other supportive housing facilities should and every walk-in clinic should have the capacity to allow people to come in and use safely on their sites,” he said.

Coun. Bill Yoachim said the B.C. government has downloaded overdose response on communities and he hopes for more help from the province moving forward. He said he liked the idea of mobile pop-up supervised consumption in different parts of Nanaimo.

McLean acknowledged that supervised consumption is a not-in-my-backyard issue.

“Everyone is a NIMBY … We all are,” he said. “I haven’t seen anyone raise their hand to say ‘I want it next door to me.’”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson announces new infrastructure spending on the Lower Mainland on Monday, flanked by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidate Cheryl Ashlie and Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Chelsa Meadus. (Neil Corbett/Black Press)
Wilkinson says plan to rebuild B.C. will work for Vancouver Island

B.C. Liberal leader talks to the News Bulletin about homelessness, forestry, infrastructure

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants

Police say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

Plastic checkout bags could be banned in Nanaimo by next summer if a city bylaw receives provincial approval. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo moves closer to banning plastic and other single-use checkout bags

Nanaimo city council votes to forward checkout bag regulation bylaw to province for approval

Rotary Centennial Garden at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Sean Fenzl photo)
New Rotary garden officially open at Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton Park

Rotary Centennial Garden design inspired by the shoreline

Jenna Forster moderated the Virtual All Candidates Forum between Duck Paterson (top left); Chris Istace (top right); and Doug Routley (Youtube/Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce)
Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates state their case in virtual debate

Duck Paterson, Chris Istace, and Doug Routley are on the ballot for October 24

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read