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Letter: Proposed safe injection site provides no security for Richmond families

A Richmond News reader questions whether the public's voices are taken into consideration during the decision-making process.
Proposed safe-injection site in Richmond is causing concerns for families and residents.

Dear Editor,

Re: "Richmond council votes 8-1 to explore safe drug consumption site"

As a mother of a young child, I am writing to you with a heavy heart. Since the news of Richmond city council voting in favour of exploring options for a supervised consumption site was announced, there has been an uproar in the community against the idea.

Why does the Richmond city council oppose the statement issued by Vancouver Coastal Health last year and I quote in the following article:

"VCH looks to expand safe drug consumption services in Richmond" published on Feb. 22, 2023 by Maria Rantanen in the Richmond News.

Vancouver Coastal Health is working on offering more safe drug consumption services in Richmond.

Details are still being worked out, but Richmond medical health officer, Meena Dawar, told the Richmond News, that they are working on setting up an “episodic overdose prevention service.”

As for having a standalone safe-injection site – otherwise known as a safe-consumption site – Dawar said Richmond doesn’t have the density of people using drugs to justify it.

To be effective, a safe injection site should be near an identified group of drug users who are able to walk to the site.

“In Richmond, there’s not a neighbourhood or area where we could provide such service,” Dawar said.

I believe that Richmond residents need to be aware of this issue in order to speak up and speak out. What are some of the ways that this can be achieved?

In the event that this site is established, has the mental health of residents been considered? Why is one group's needs overshadowing another?

If drug use is a health issue, so is mental health. The mental state of many parents will be affected, which ranges from stress to depression, why is this not considered?

After the opening of modular housing located on 6999 Alderbridge Way, as residents in the vicinity, we have personally witnessed suspicious people crossing the streets dangerously, spitting, using garden hoses from private residences to clean themselves or fill their bottles, shouting.

I am certain that there are many other instances when adults and children feel frightened and it is unimaginable to live in a state of constant fear. This is not an environment that our children should grow up in.

This is not the Canada that we aspire to build and maintain. Canada is vocal and active in assisting and welcoming refugees, who flee their countries in search of safety. I find it ironic that yet right here in our backyard, we cannot provide this sense of safety and security.

In fact, I believe that a support group for parents should be established as mental stress and emotional needs must not be ignored or underestimated. 

In videos that demonstrate the effectiveness of centres like Insite, the people shown have been carefully curated. Those portrayed articulate well, and are conscious and aware of their actions and words.

While this can show the general public that drug users and addicts should not be stereotyped, the other extreme is not fairly represented. With my own two eyes, I have witnessed indecently dressed ones that are not aware of their surroundings, behaving socially inappropriately or even potentially harming other members of the public. Again, why are sites built for their needs without balancing the bane?

Community centres and community events have been actively promoted in Richmond, to build a community, to enhance harmony in our Canadian society as this country is made up of diverse groups of people, coming from different countries, with different races, languages and religions.

How is this going to be possible if residents are afraid to even stroll their pets on the streets?

The presence of drugs can already be felt in the area surrounding Brighouse Library, where the area hosts ice skating classes, and art and music lessons, in short, an area that caters to the needs of families. However, needles and human waste can be seen and detected in car parks and outdoor areas. 

Although Richmond is different from York Road in North Cowichan and Yaletown, these two case studies should be mentioned and explored before the decision can be made on opening a site in Richmond.

Have studies been done to test the effectiveness of such sites, is the timeline long enough to justify their results? Why is the city of Richmond a white rat in Canada's experimental attempt to combat the issues of drugs? 

I also find that it is difficult to understand the entire decision-making process as many details are not disclosed. Why are the voices of the people not heard? It is a fundamental role of a city council to be the voice of its people and to work for the people, not against them.

The very foundation of democracy is being called into question when people do not have a say. Why does Vancouver Coastal Health have the authority to decide for the residents of Richmond, and who are the people that get to make the decisions?

All information should be disclosed to the public if Canada prides itself on being a free and democratic country. 

C. Chiu