Chrissy Forsythe, a Nanaimo restaurant owner, is one of several organizers of an upcoming public meeting to explore ways to get a handle on addiction and crime in Nanaimo. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Public meeting will explore ideas to battle addiction and crime in Nanaimo

Organizers call for treatment centres, accountability for crimes, citizens’ task force

A public meeting has been organized to hear ideas on ways to deal with impacts of the opioid crisis in Nanaimo.

The meeting, called Citizens Want Nanaimo Back, will be held Oct. 1 at Nanaimo Entertainment Centre, 46 Nicol St., at 5 p.m.

“I’m hoping to get our voices heard, as citizens, that the social disorder that is happening on our streets is not OK, because it’s not,” said Chrissy Forsythe, a Nanaimo restaurant owner and one of the meeeting’s organizers. “None of us should be put in this situation … Nobody should be dealing with the mess that we’re cleaning up and there needs to be action from our province and our federal government to make a change and a drastic change has to happen now before it’s too late because the citizens are fed up and we cannot continue this any longer … We’ve all had enough and what are we supposed to do? Pick up and move and sell our businesses? It’s not fair that tax-paying citizens have to be on the front lines of this. This is not our job and it’s not our responsibility.”

Forsythe is calling for the creation of proper treatment centres for the addicted, consequences for those who break the law and a citizens task force to help the RCMP deal with crime, but she also recognizes that those suffering from addiction are human beings who need society’s compassion and help.

RELATED: City of Nanaimo decides not to fund addiction treatment beds for now

“We have to remember these people are our people,” she said. “Some of them may not be from here … but they’re Canadians. These are our people.”

Part of the problem, she said, lies with the fact that the world has never dealt with a fentanyl addiction crisis before and the unprecedented challenges resulting from the mental, physical and social effects of opioid addiction.

Forsythe has invited political candidates, members of city council, the RCMP and representatives from mental health and addiction agencies to speak and share their ideas along with the public.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said he will speak about community awareness, what individuals and businesses can do to protect themselves, crime prevention initiatives and what the RCMP is doing to address crime and programs police plan to introduce this fall, which includes a task force to “address certain kinds of criminality” and “crime-free multi-housing.”

“You need public engagement and I’m a full supporter of it because I spend most of my week engaging with the public and they like to hear what’s going on in our community,” O’Brien said. “People are very concerned about what they’re seeing and they want a voice and this is a great venue for it, with the appropriate people as well to address the bylaw issues, city council to address their mandate and the RCMP.”

O’Brien said if the meeting is well-run, he expects it will be productive and those attending should be able to take away a lot from it.

“I don’t want this being an attack on anybody and that’s one thing I made very clear to the mayor,” Forsythe said. “If there’s any social disobedience out in the crowd and there’s anybody acting out, they’re going to be asked to leave. I don’t want anybody yelling at anybody. I don’t want anybody booing anybody … It needs to be handled with respect and well-mannered. Everybody will have their chance to speak and voice whatever they need to … it’s too important to have fighting. We need help and these people need help and I see it and I don’t like seeing this anymore.”

RELATED: International Overdose Awareness Day includes community gathering and vigil

RELATED: Islanders share painful experience with opioid addiction
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