Drug use and what appeared to be drug deals could be seen happening in broad daylight in downtown Nanaimo Sunday.
The Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association (NAPSA) says this kind of activity and the public safety issues that come with it are getting out of control.
“People don’t feel safe anymore,” said Kevan Shawn, NAPSA vice-president.
“Talk to your neighbours. Some elderly people are afraid to walk out in the evening. At night, I’m afraid to walk out at night sometimes now,” he added.
“There’s a constant amount of violence and intimidation and open-air drug use,” said NAPSA president Collen Middleton.
Shaw lives downtown and says the sight of an ambulance racing to an overdose is a regular occurrence, along with robberies and serious assaults.
He says it’s been getting worse in Nanaimo and elsewhere since the decriminalization of small amounts of some illicit drugs that went into effect on Jan. 31 last year.
It is a three-year trial by Health Canada and the Province, but the NAPSA says it wants the experiment to end now.
“The decriminalization experiment was supposed to stabilize people on the supplies that they have so that they wouldn’t have their drugs confiscated, but clearly that’s not working because deaths continue to escalate,” said Middleton.
Speaking last week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said decriminalization is working.
“Decriminalization of people who use drugs, and I think that’s really important,” she said. “This is about not giving somebody who’s using drugs on their own a criminal record. It’s not legalizing drugs, it’s certainly not legalizing public use in front of children in particular.”
But even that happens with drug use taking place in public areas across Nanaimo and elsewhere.
“It’s not just a drug overdose emergency. This has grown now because the government has let it into a public safety emergency,” said Shaw.