Skip to content

Raucous Richmond meeting ends in vote to explore safe consumption site

Coun. Alexa Loo switched her vote to a 'no' saying motion was 'overly prescriptive.'
A second night of feedback about a proposal for a supervised consumption site in Richmond was held Tuesday.

Another raucous night at Richmond City Hall ended with a 7-2 vote for a practicality study on establishing a supervised consumption site at the hospital.

This decision was met with jeers and shouts from audience members – some flashed dollar bills, some yelled “shame” and at least one person had to be directed by police to move away from the council table.

Much of the animosity was directed at Coun. Kash Heed, who initiated the motion along with Coun. Laura Gillanders, but jeers were directed at other councillors who supported the motion as well.

Coun. Chak Au, who has been opposed to the idea from the onset, was joined by Coun. Alexa Loo voting against the motion.

Loo supported it last week at a committee meeting.

But on Tuesday, she cited information sent to her about a safe consumption site in Victoria with claims that social disorder was being caused by the site.

She said the motion on the table was divisive and “overly prescriptive.”

“(The motion) specifically asks for a safe consumption site,” she said. “And the bulk of the motion talks about it like it’s already approved and is ready for business.”

She said “apparently” there’s a difference between a “safe consumption site” and an “overdose prevention site,” but as a “layperson” it’s hard to differentiate.

“If there’s a distinction, it should have been made in the report,” she added. “The community should not be left flailing in the wind trying to understand what is proposed.”

Loo said instead of asking for more of the four pillars approach – harm reduction, prevention, enforcement and treatment – it asks specifically for a safe consumption site.

“The wording was meant to be inflammatory and has divided our community,” Loo said.

“Instead of putting together a motion that we can come together on, it’s just sown division and discord,” Loo added.

Heed’s response to Loo was the difference between a supervised consumption site and an overdose prevention site was explained several times.

But when Heed followed his remarks stating Loo has “political aspirations,” which was followed by jeering from the crowd, Brodie told him to “stay to the issues.”

'Not right for Richmond': Henry Yao

On Wednesday, following the 7-2 vote at Richmond city council, MLA Henry Yao put out a statement on the social media platform X saying the “doctors and leaders” at VCH have “examined it and have said that this approach is not right for Richmond,” referring to a supervised consumption site.

He noted in his post that the BC United Party’s Teresa Wat and opposition leader Kevin Falcon agree “that harm reduction saves lives and improves community safety.”

“Although this proposal from Richmond was put forward without consultation with the provincial government, we appreciate the interest that city council has shown in helping support people living with addictions, and for their support of measures to reduce overdoses,” Yao said on X.

In fact, the proposal was for city staff to do an analysis “to gauge the potential benefits and challenges of implementing a drug consumption site.”

Conservative Party of BC Leader, MLA John Rustad said in a statement that the “NDP Injection Site will bring drugs, crime, & chaos via SkyTrain from Downtown Eastside to Richmond.”

“The Conservative Party of British Columbia supports families and Richmond residents who are furious at Richmond City Council’s plan to bring one of Premier Eby’s notorious NDP injection sites to a family neighbourhood in Richmond,” Rustad said, adding it will create an “open-air drug den.”

Fallout from motion ‘sad’: Carol Day

Coun. Carol Day said what has transpired due to this motion over the past few days has been “sad.”

She said emails she’s been receiving have called her a “drug dealer” and called the proposed safe-consumption site the “Richmond injection house.”

“I say ‘yes’ to drugs are no good, I say ‘yes’ that treatment must happen to cure people, I say ‘yes’ to the hospital improvements… and I say ‘no’ to the social divide that some people in this room created,” Day said.

Richmond residents came out in droves on Monday night, first to rally against a safe consumption site and then to speak to city councillors against the motion.

Au wanted to table the motion – but this wasn’t supported by anyone else on council – and then said he’d like to see an eight-week consultation period before a vote.

“If we rush through, it will divide our community,” Au said.

Au said he's concerned people who came to speak are "labelled as being misled or being misinformed."

Monday’s meeting was adjourned at 11 p.m. after city council heard from about 40 speakers, and continued on Tuesday evening with another 40 speakers. Both meetings were preceded by rallies on the plaza in front of city hall.

Much of the response from the community against the idea of a supervised consumption site was asking for more education to prevent young people from using drugs as well as comments on the social disorder and increased drug use that would follow setting up such a site.

One speaker said drug addicts belong only in mental institutions or jail.

Many others, however, said they felt compassion for people using drugs and hoped they would find help, but some also spoke about their own accountability in choosing to use drugs.

Speaking in favour were several parents and family members who have lost loved ones to the toxic drug crisis.

Commenting on the motion, Coun. Bill McNulty said the city is “trying to keep people alive” but there is a “drug issue.”

“We have a crisis, we have a crisis in Richmond and British Columbia,” said McNulty, citing areas like Brighouse Park, South Arm, the Elmbridge Dog Park and Smith Crescent where these issues can be seen.

“This is the reality, folks, this is your neighbourhood and your backyard,” McNulty said.

McNulty said he agreed with many speakers who called for drug education, and noted the city is hiring outreach workers to work with the vulnerable population of Richmond.

Coun. Laura Gillanders said a supervised consumption site wouldn’t be built for years, given the permits needed from higher levels of government.

Furthermore, she added, “nothing will be built in Richmond without extensive consultation.”

In 2023, 26 people died of suspected drug poisonings and paramedics respond to on average one drug poisoning or overdose a day in Richmond.

Got an opinion on this story or any others in Richmond? Send us a letter or email your thoughts or story tips to [email protected].