Pubdate: Tue, 31 Jul 2001
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Mark Subryan


Abbotsford city council is saying No to a needle exchange.

A planned drug treatment clinic is OK for the city, but council doesn't 
want to see methadone treatment or needle exchanges as part of it.

At Monday's council meeting, they asked staff to find an existing zone that 
says just that since zoning bylaws are their only option.

"Some uses for a drug treatment clinic would not be welcome in Abbotsford," 
said Coun. Simon Gibson.

"A needle exchange program is not a relevant program here. It is a misnomer 
because our mental picture of a needle exchange office is one where a drug 
user brings in his or her used needles for new ones.

"What we don't see is the problem of having all of these dirty needles in 
the community. Just because clean needles are available, doesn't mean they 
won't be used again and again."

At Monday's meeting, city staff told council that Section 929 of the Local 
Government Act allows municipal governments to withhold a building permit 
for up to 90 days.

In order to do this, council would have to pass a resolution at least seven 
days before the building permit is filed that would instruct a plan or 
bylaw be prepared.

Council would then have to provide another resolution within 30 days of a 
permit being filed directing that the permit be withheld for a further 60 
days while council considers if the building permit is in conflict with an 
official community plan or zoning bylaw amendment.

An alternative could see council grant the building permit, but under 
certain conditions ensuring it would be in the public's interest. If, 
following this course of action, a plan or bylaw isn't approved within the 
60-day period, the building permit applicant is entitled to "compensation 
for damages arising from the withholding of the permit."

Gibson said he had four concerns regarding the proposal of drug treatment 
facilities in Abbotsford.

"If there is to be a drug treatment centre, we should not allow for a 
needle exchange program, safe injection site, mobile drug vans, or a 
methadone clinic," he said.

Councillors Mark Warawa and Patricia Ross both agreed with Gibson's stance 
against this proposal.

"Last year, three to four million needles were distributed in Vancouver," 
Warawa said. "Imagine the buckets of used needles that piled up. We don't 
want that in Abbotsford.

"There already is a very large drug problem here. If anything, a detox 
centre, maybe at the hospital, could be a viable option."

Coun. Ross said having a treatment centre would be a proactive stance 
against the problem but agreed that limits needed to be set.

"If the needle exchange happens, we'll essentially be letting the 
provincial government off the hook in regards to setting up a detox centre 
in Abbotsford," she said.

"A while ago, I visited the needle exchange in Surrey to get an idea of 
what one was about, and I had never felt so ill at ease before.

"The area around the needle exchange is like a war zone. Business owners in 
the area had high security to protect themselves and their employees. I 
would have to agree that a detox centre would be a better alternative to a 
needle exchange centre."

The matter has been sent back to city staff for amendments and will be 
brought up at the next meeting.
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