A petition asking the City of Richmond to stop considering a safe drug consumption site in Richmond has collected nearly 15,000 names so far.
“The introduction of such a facility will inevitably attract more drug addicts to our city. This could lead to an increase in crime rates and public safety issues that would directly affect us all – especially our children who are growing up here,” wrote Gady Tse, a Richmond resident who started the petition on Change.org on Sunday.
“Additionally, while these sites aim at reducing harm among users, they can inadvertently contribute to increased substance abuse due to easy access.”
Jimmy Cheung, a Richmond resident who added his name to the petition, said he is concerned the site could attract other users from perimeter cities, which would add "extra burdens" to the city’s homelessness problem.
“I believe better education and outreach program is a better solution from a city level,” said Cheung.
Couns. Kash Heed and Laura Gillanders proposed a motion to explore the idea of a safe drug consumption site near Richmond Hospital where drug users can test their drugs and consume them safely.
All Richmond city councillors except Coun. Chak Au voted at Monday’s committee meeting to explore the idea, and council is expected to hold a final vote on whether to move forward with the proposal at the council meeting next Monday.
“The petition shows that there is such a strong and fast reaction in the community. I’ve never seen such a scale before. I hope my colleagues [on council] take these numbers seriously,” said Au.
Au said many residents have come to him since Monday to voice their concerns over the proposed safe drug consumption site and questioned why decisions are being made so soon on such a major project.
“Given the large number of people who have different opinions, I don’t think we should just push it through. We are a democratic society and we have to listen to all parties, all sides and all different opinions,” said Au.
In a motion to council, Heed said a safe drug consumption site can save lives and provide an opportunity for people to seek further treatment and support.
“Public drug policies should not push drug users into unsafe areas such as alleys and hidden alcoves, instead they should establish safe places to consume drugs,” wrote Heed.
In 2023, 26 people died in Richmond of suspected drug poisonings, according to the BC Coroners Service.
A map from Richmond Fire-Rescue showed firefighters responded to half a dozen overdoses and drug poisonings in city centre in November. But it also showed they were occurring across Richmond from Steveston to Hamilton.