Nanaimo city council will send a “strongly worded” letter to the federal and provincial governments about the local impacts of the mental health and addiction crisis.
The motion to pen the letter was brought before council by Coun. Paul Manly at a meeting Monday, March 6.
Mayor and council are asking the federal and provincial governments to reform policies around mental health and addictions and provide funding to deal with issues from social disorder being felt in Nanaimo.
Manly, reading from his motion, said “current policies on mental health and addiction, and the lack of proper funding to address these issues, are impacting communities and municipal governments at an unacceptable level.”
His motion asked for justice reform to steer people toward treatment, rehabilitation, and community service, and also called for provincial funding for detox and treatment beds. As well, the motion asks provincial and federal investments “to address the homelessness crisis, which in turn has been feeding the mental health and addiction crisis.”
Manly said after 100 years of prohibition in Canada, there is now a process of drug decriminalization, but no process for a safe supply or legal drug supply, which continues to be regulated by organized crime, leaving desperate drug users to find their own ways to procure drugs. He said he’s not opposed to people using drugs as long as their drug use doesn’t impact others in the community, and when it does, mechanisms to take corrective action need to be in place that municipalities don’t currently have.
“When we have people who are vulnerable on our streets, they are vulnerable to the predators who prey on people on our streets and, when you have people that are open to suggestion, that want to be connected to community, and the only people connecting to them are people who are street-entrenched or involved in the drug trade, then we’re actually exacerbating the issues,” Manly said.
Housing, he said, has become increasingly unaffordable for people with disabilities, students, low-wage workers, people on fixed incomes, seniors, single-parent families and the market has “decided” those who can’t afford what the market can bear can live on the streets.
He also said low-income people can’t access basic counselling in spite of going through a COVID-19 pandemic during which people’s mental health has been affected.
“Why isn’t that part of our Canada Health Act? It’s impacting people negatively and it’s exacerbating the situation, as well,” the councillor said. “So, I’m fed up. I know the rest of council is fed up. This is not in our bailiwick. It’s not something that people paying property tax should be paying for and it’s time for the provincial government and federal government to step up properly, with a plan, to deal with this crisis that all communities across Canada are facing.”
There was no discussion around the council table about the motion, which was carried unanimously.