The Scout Hall, one of 13 outdoor locations in Nelson where a new bylaw bans the use of drugs. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The Scout Hall, one of 13 outdoor locations in Nelson where a new bylaw bans the use of drugs. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson City Council’s ban on drug use in parks now in effect

The 4-3 vote affects 13 locations around the city

Nelson City Council has passed the final reading of its Parks Amendment Bylaw (Public Nuisance) that bans drug use in a list of specific parks and other locations in Nelson.

The bylaw passed with a 4-3 vote on Sept. 5 and is now in effect. Enforcement will not involve ticketing or any other punitive measure, but rather it gives bylaw officers and police the authority to move people along.

Councillors Leslie Payne, Jesse Pineiro and Keith Page voted against the motion for reasons they had already laid out in previous council discussions.

Payne said she continues her opposition to the bylaw because it is being brought forward in too much haste and does not include any new commitments to harm reduction or other recovery services.

Pineiro said the bylaw would not be effective because most people do not do drugs in parks, so it is “a solution to a problem that does not exist.” He said he would support the bylaw if it addressed the reasons people use drugs.

Councillor Rik Logtenberg said he has seen drug use in parks and also around the Scout Hall and the Civic Centre (two of the locations addressed in the bylaw). He said the bylaw does not seek to solve the problem of addiction but to make it easier for people to use parks and playgrounds.

Page agreed with Payne and Pineiro, adding there should be a city employee with expertise in mental health and additions to work on these issues full time.

The bylaw outlaws the consumption of drugs in several parks in Nelson: Lakeside, Cottonwood, Rosemont, Queen Elizabeth, Gyro, and Lions Parks, as well as the municipal campground, the Hall Street Pier, Hall Street Plaza, the Nelson and District Community Complex, and within 10 metres of the Civic Centre.

City manager Kevin Cormack sharply criticized the provincial government, stating that mental health and addictions are a provincial mandate and the city has no expertise in, or funding for, these issues.

“Property taxes were not meant to fund social problems. They were meant to pave streets,” he said.

He reminded council that at a recent council meeting three managers from Interior Health spoke against the city’s proposed bylaw but at the same time admitted the province has no strategy for how to deal with overdose prevention sites or recovery services.

Cormack said the province should develop and fund strategies that would help rural communities, “rather than criticizing us for trying to do small community solutions.”

Premier David Eby said in June the province is working on province-wide legislation that would support municipalities looking into banning illicit drug use in public parks.


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