Following overwhelming public support, Penticton city staff are recommending council proceed with the Safe Public Places bylaw.
“This bylaw is designed to ensure a safer and more secure Penticton by clearly laying out expected behaviours in public places, ranging from disorderly conduct and public nuisances to public substance use, so that we can ensure community safety,” says Blake Laven, the city’s director of development services.
“Overall, there is wide support for the intent of the bylaw and for providing Community Safety Officers with more authority to enforce the provisions and for allowing Community Safety Officers to respond to these types of calls, as opposed to the RCMP, which can be freed up to deal with higher-level criminal matters.”
First introduced in March, the bylaw was developed over the course of two years in response to community concerns around safety and the unsustainable level of social nuisance and disturbance calls directed to the RCMP.
During the development of the bylaw, the federal and provincial governments began a three-year pilot program decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of previously illegal substances.
This took away police power to deal with open drug use in parks and public spaces.
From Jan. 31 of this year to Jan. 31 2026, users can possess and ingest 2.5 g of certain illicit drugs without legal repercussions.
Last week, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton made a video condemning the NDP government from bringing in decriminalization without finding a way to keep public spaces like playgrounds safe.
“Parks and beaches should be safe places for children to enjoy and parents not fear their kids could come into contact with used needles and other dangerous drugs,” said Ashton in the video where he is standing in front of Lakawanna Park playground.
Parks and beaches should be safe places for children to enjoy, and parents not fear their kids could come into contact with used needles or other dangerous drugs. I remain hopeful Premier Eby and his NDP government will change course on this. pic.twitter.com/KmPEjdINgu— Dan Ashton (@DanAshtonBC) May 12, 2023
The city bylaw provides exemptions for substance use in designated areas.
City staff met with Dr. Sue Pollock, the regional medical health officer for Interior Health, to discuss the bylaw, focusing on the public consumption of illicit substances. Interior Health raised concerns that the bylaw would re-stigmatizing drug use and reiterated waiting six months. Pollock also suggested not imposing punitive measures such as fines, even though fines aren’t a focus of the bylaw.
“Our goal is to ensure that everyone feels safe, including those struggling with addictions issues. We will continue to work with Interior Health and other groups to ensure safe spaces exist and continue advocating for more resources.”
“After reviewing the feedback and discussion with other groups, there is an overwhelming consensus that the bylaw is headed in the right direction,” said Laven.
The bylaw will be presented to council for adoption at the May 16 meeting. Also on the agenda is an update from the Public Safety Working Group and the latest crime stats from the RCMP.
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