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Posts Tagged "Port"

14Sep

Former Port Alberni mayor pushes for drug decriminalization as path to treatment

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https://vancouversun.com/


John Douglas, special projects co-ordinator for the Port Alberni Shelter Society and a former mayor and councillor for the city. [PNG Merlin Archive]


Submitted: John Douglas / PNG

The former mayor of Port Alberni has released a report in which he supports calls for drug decriminalization in order to protect British Columbians from overdoses and other related harm, and help them find appropriate treatment.

John Douglas, who was a paramedic for 23 years, wrote “Working Towards a Solution: Resolving the Case between Crime and Addiction” following an information-gathering trip to Portugal, and recently released it to the media.

Douglas, now special projects co-ordinator for the Port Alberni Shelter Society, explained Thursday that the paper is not a scientific analysis, but rather a “from-my-gut” exploration of what he has learned while working in the fields of social housing, mental health, poverty and addiction.

He calls for the province to engage doctors, lawyers and police, as well as the public, to make addiction and possession of addictive substances solely a health issue, under healthy ministry jurisdiction. He wants the government to develop a supply model for addictive drugs to eliminate health problems associated with contaminated street drugs.

More than 4,300 people have died of an illicit-drug overdose in B.C. since the provincial government declared a public health emergency in April, 2016. Fentanyl was detected in most cases.

Douglas recommends the development of long-term, affordable and flexible treatment communities and “health teams” to provide services. He asks the province to tell the federal government “politely and firmly” that it intends to move forward with a pilot program which is open to federal participation.

“I’ve been a politician myself — no higher than a municipal level — but I find political people, as well-meaning as they are, tend to lag behind movements, sometimes, in society,” Douglas said. “I’ve talked to so many people in the health, enforcement and legal fields that all agree (addiction) should be treated as a health issue, but the political end is lagging behind because they’re afraid of losing votes or saying the wrong thing and offending somebody.”

Douglas entered politics in 2008 as a councillor in Port Alberni and served as mayor from 2011 to 2014. After the fentanyl-related overdose crisis emerged, he helped bring a sobering centre and overdose prevention and inhalation sites to the city.

His decades of experience in health care and helping people who have addictions helped him come to the conclusion that people with addictions should be in health care, not the criminal justice system.

Earlier this year, he attended a forum in Portugal where he learned about the country’s approach to addiction and overdoses. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs for personal use in response to a surge in heroin use.

“With the shelter, we’re working toward researching models of therapeutic communities that could work for treatment, if and when we can get the government to start moving in the direction of decriminalization and the direction of adequate treatment for people with addictions, instead of these pathetic 30- to 60-day treatment programs that are commonplace over here,” Douglas said.

Decriminalization would apply to all drugs — even heroin and methamphetamine — but falls short of legalization, which removes prohibitions but also develops regulations for the production, sale and use of a substance (Canada’s approach to cannabis is an example).

In a special report released last April, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged the B.C. government to implement decriminalization for simple possession for personal use.

Henry said B.C. could use its powers under the Police Act to allow the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General to set broad provincial priorities with respect to people who use drugs. Or it could enact a regulation under the act to prevent police from using resources to enforce against simple possession offences under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth shot down Henry’s proposal, saying laws around the possession of controlled substances remain federal and “no provincial action can change that.”

Douglas sides with Henry on the issue.

“I wanted to be an additional voice to echo those findings,” he said. “I agree wholeheartedly with her. We don’t have to wait for the federal government to do this.”

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24Jul

Port Alberni rocked by national manhunt for local teens after first believing the pair was lost in the bush

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PORT ALBERNI — The blue sky and lush greenery surrounding the chalet-style home across the street from beautiful Sproat Lake belied the pain, confusion and fear that must have been felt by the people inside.

It’s the home of 19-year-old Kam McLeod, who with his friend, 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky, is the subject of a manhunt that has now moved to remote northeastern Manitoba, almost 3,000 kilometres from where the bodies of two tourists were found on July 15 that sparked a Canada-wide search.

Set in an idyllic, rural and recreational setting, Sproat Lake is a 20-minute drive from central Port Alberni.

Inside the home were McLeod’s parents and, judging by the number of vehicles parked outside the home, supportive family and friends. Phone calls to Keith McLeod, Kam’s dad, went unanswered and private-property signs warned unwanted visitors to stay away.


CP-Web. Alan Schmegelsky, father of Bryer Schmegelsky, poses for a photo.

Laura Kane /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Keith McLeod had earlier issued a statement saying the family felt trapped in their home, worried about their son, trying to wrap their heads around the head-spinning developments of the past three days, and praying Kam would come home safely.

Even the FBI had visited, according to a friend of the McLeods, who asked not to be identified — 24-year-old Chynna Deese of North Carolina and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Australia, were the first two victims of murder the RCMP have said two Port Alberni teens are wanted for.

A third victim was identified by police on Wednesday as Leonard Dyck of Vancouver. Police have formally charged the Port Alberni duo with his second-degree murder.

Related

Phone calls to the home of Caroline Starkey, maternal grandmother to Schmegelsky and with whom the teen had been living for the past two years, went unanswered.

Three passing vehicles slowed down to look menacingly at a Postmedia reporter and photographer. “Leave them alone!” one elderly man who had stopped his pickup truck yelled.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is in shock,” said Susie Quinn, editor of the Alberni Valley News. “This went from being two kids who were missing, to overnight being suspects in three deaths, that’s the sense I get.”


Security camera images recorded in Saskatchewan of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are displayed as RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet speaks during a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on July 23, 2019.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

A street poll of residents showed a community unsure of what to say or how to feel until the ordeal plays itself out.

“It could happen anywhere,” a cashier who said McLeod’s parents are regular customers said.

“They seem like nice people,” added her colleague. “I don’t know anything about their son.”

Employees at the high school the two attended (Alberni District Secondary), at School District 70 headquarters, and at Walmart (where the two boys briefly worked) had all been instructed to say nothing.

One waitress downtown said she had known Kam McLeod, but hadn’t seen him in at least two years.

“I remember him as a nice kid,” she said. “I’m shocked.”

Added a customer inside a fast-food-joint: “What can you do? I’m just glad they didn’t do it here.”

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4Jun

‘This shouldn’t be happening’: Port Coquitlam cab ride ends with customer calling RCMP

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A Port Coquitlam woman with a disability said she recently had to call the RCMP after a cab ride that had her questioning her safety.

Gayle Hunter said she booked a Bel-Air Taxi online on May 24, for a ride to work at a school not far away.

“I have problems with my legs some days and I wasn’t feeling up to walking,” Hunter told CTV News Vancouver.

She said during the ride, the driver informed her he hadn’t turned the meter on.

“I wanted to kind of inform him if you don’t have that on, your customer doesn’t have to pay, so you know, something you should be aware of,” Hunter said.

She said the driver then started yelling and driving away from her route.

“I said where are you going? Like, where are you taking me? And he’s like, I don’t have to take you there, I can take you anywhere,” Hunter said.

Hunter said she insisted the driver turn around, and called the cab company. When they eventually arrived at the school, she said the driver grabbed the cash fare she had in her hand.

“My hand flies back, he’s got the bill, the change goes flying, and I yell, because it hurt,” Hunter said.

Hunter said she called the RCMP and contacted Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, who posted about her complaint online. Stewart said it’s an example of why people need more options, such as ride-hailing.

“It is outrageous that a disabled person could be actually held in a cab,” Stewart told CTV News Vancouver.

“It scares me for other residents who might not have had the wherewithal she had,” Stewart said.

Bel-Air Taxi manager Shawn Bowden does not agree the driver deviated from the route.

He says their GPS records show the cab made a series of right hand turns to get to the school.

“It wasn’t taken on a wild goose chase or something like that, no. But maybe she just didn’t understand that,” Bowden said.

However, Bowden said the meter should have been on.

“I apologize for the service. And I have talked to the customer, and I have apologized, it shouldn’t have happened,” Bowden said.

Hunter said she has taken cabs since then, but the experience has made her more cautious.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” Hunter said.

The RCMP said charges are not being pursued in the case.


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