Pubdate: Wed, 07 Dec 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andrea Woo
Page: S1


The only public supervised-consumption site proposed for Surrey would
be steps from the home base of a new and dedicated team of 16 law
enforcement officers in an area where police have clashed with the
homeless and drug users.

Critics say the two plans announced on Tuesday reveal either a
thoughtless oversight or a deliberate effort to hamper the
still-contentious supervised injection service at a time when fatal
overdoses in B.C. have reached a record high and urgent action is
needed. The public site proposed for Surrey will likely have six
booths and be in a portable behind the Gateway Shelter on 135A Street,
also known as "the Strip," the Fraser Health Authority announced on

The run-down stretch has in recent years become a homeless encampment,
with people living there saying they witness several overdoses every

Also on Tuesday, the City of Surrey and Surrey RCMP announced their
City Centre Response Plan, which includes the creation of a dedicated
team of 12 Surrey RCMP officers and four bylaw officers that will work
out of a satellite office "in the heart of 135A," 24 hours a day,
seven days a week.

A joint news release said the team's objective is to protect
vulnerable people in the area, increase public safety and help connect
people who use drugs with treatment options. Neither Surrey Mayor
Linda Hepner nor the Surrey RCMP responded to interview requests on
Tuesday. The mayor had previously opposed supervised consumption,
later softening her stand to say it must be in a facility with
treatment options. People camping on the Strip have told The Globe and
Mail that bylaw officers have thrown away unmanned tents and
belongings and RCMP officers arrest people for low-level drug crimes.
An enhanced, permanent presence could drive people away and deter
injection drug users from using the new consumption site, said Tabitha
Naismith, chairperson of Newton ACORN, which last month joined the
call for supervised consumption in Surrey.

"There's already been an uproar about [officers] being on the Strip,
how they handle tent cities by throwing people's belongings out," Ms.
Naismith said.

"This isn't going to help alleviate the problem. There should have
been public consultation, with members from ACORN and other community
stakeholders before [the mayor] announced this whole plan with bylaw
officers and the RCMP." Ann Livingston, an activist on Vancouver's
Downtown Eastside who helped set up a "pop-up" supervisedinjection
site in Surrey last summer, questioned the purpose of such a large
police presence if not for a punitive response to drug users.

"Who are these predators?" Ms. Livingston asked, referring to the
police objective to target those who prey on the vulnerable. "They
would be better off taking that money and putting it toward housing,
or a day centre where [service providers] can work with [people who
use drugs], talk to them about health, be kind to them."

The Fraser Health Authority is considering a second supervised
consumption site for Surrey that will likely have two booths at the
Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre. It would be restricted
to clients of the centre, patients of Surrey Memorial Hospital and
those referred by other health-care providers.

Victoria Lee, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, said she
is confident the health authority will be able to work with its partners.

"The City of Surrey is supportive of supervised consumption services
and we want to see our respective initiatives work," Dr. Lee said.

"We will be evaluating throughout our implementation and making
changes as necessary."

Dr. Lee noted the health authority will also double capacity for
suboxone and methadone treatment at both sites and offer counselling,
case management and outreach services. As well, it will undertake
feasibility assessments for sites in Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Langley.

Fraser Health has applied for an exemption from federal drug laws to
operate supervised consumption sites, as required under the Respect
for Communities Act. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has
acknowledged that the Harper-era legislation imposes undue barriers
and said changes would be forthcoming.

In the first 10 months of 2016, more than 622 people have died of
illicit drug overdoses in B.C., at least 76 of them in Surrey.
Fentanyl was detected in about 60 per cent of these deaths.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt