Richmond, B.C., council votes to back safe consumption site after fractious meetings

Richmond, B.C., council votes to back safe consumption site after fractious meetings
Syringes are seen at a safe injection site Monday, June 26, 2017 in Montreal.

The next step for a controversial supervised safe consumption drug site has been approved by council members in Richmond, B.C., after two days of highly charged hearings.

The council voted 7 to 2 late Tuesday to pass a motion in favour of exploring the possibility of establishing a site with Vancouver Coastal Health.

Council issued a statement before the vote to address what it called “a large amount of misinformation and misunderstanding” about the motion, saying it is ultimately up to the health authority to decide if the site will be established.

SEE ALSO: B.C.’s safer supply drug program review gets reaction from frontline

More than 100 people signed up to speak to the motion, many of them opposed to the possibility of a city supervised consumption site in response to the escalating number of illicit drug overdose deaths in the province.

The council meeting was peppered with shouting by some of the attendees of “no drugs” and “shame on you,” while several councillors rebuked the protesters’ behaviour.

Richmond currently has no supervised consumption sites, which allows people with addictions to administer their own drugs under the watch of qualified health professionals.

Addiction treatment and recovery services are also offered at the sites, although they do not “hand out drugs to users” as described in the City of Richmond’s statement.

Video posted on social media shows tense confrontations between supporters and opponents of the sites at Richmond City Hall, with a number of opposing attendees yelling in each other’s faces.

The issued has garnered the attention of a number of high-profile politicians, including federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who posted a video of a confrontation on social media platform X, saying it was an attack on a man trying to protect his kids from a drug injection site.

READ ALSO: Ending drug decriminalization won’t save lives, B.C. minister says on anniversary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2024.

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