The use of illicit drugs is officially prohibited in select Sicamous public parks.
At the April 12 council meeting, Mayor Colleen Anderson added a late item to the agenda after receiving a response from Interior Health’s medical health officer Jonathon Malo.
The letter was Malo’s response to the district’s proposed amended parks bylaw. The item was the adoption of the bylaw, which had been amended in response to the province’s temporary decriminalization of possession of certain illegal drugs for personal use.
Malo sent the letter on March 29, thanking the district for allowing him and other Interior Health representatives to present on March 8. Malo had asked the district to wait six months before implementing its amended parks bylaw prohibiting the use illicit drugs in Sicamous parks.
In the letter, Malo said he appreciated being given time to further comment on the bylaw before its formal adoption, and is aware of council’s preference to take a proactive approach.
“I also acknowledge that the proposed bylaw amendment only applies to certain parks and beaches that are frequently visited by children and families, and that there are still public spaces available for people who use substances if they choose to do so, either due to a lack of other options or as a safety measure,” reads Malo’s statement.
He recommended the bylaw undergo a trial period without the introduction of fines and encouraged bylaw officers to use non-punitive measures, like verbal warnings, to enforce the bylaw in the beginning.
Malo listed financial struggles, stress and the risk of incarceration associated with fines as potential negative consequences for people who use substances, saying these could be barriers to those people in seeking help.
Malo’s approval allowed council to formally adopt the bylaw on April 12.
Anderson said she felt the adoption was time sensitive moving into the spring months when people will be visiting parks more often.
“Other communities are now starting to bring their bylaw changes forward, and they’re concerned how to make a move and we just forged forward with community support,” said Anderson.
“We are leaders among other municipalities right now.”