Posts Tagged "pushes"


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

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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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Vancouver candidate pushes for diaper change tables in all washrooms

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One Vancouver city council candidate is pushing for changes at city hall.

Specifically, diaper changes – and change tables that are accessible to both women and men in all public facilities, so there’s nothing stopping a dad from doing it.

“Dads change, grandparents change, everybody changes diapers,” Independent Vancouver city council candidate Erin Shum told CTV News. “We need to make it available to everyone.”

Shum is a new mom to four-month-old Abigail, and says facilities vary. There are diaper change tables in almost all women’s washrooms in publically accessible buildings. But as for men’s washrooms? It depends.

“My husband and I always struggle when we’re out. Who’s going to change her diaper?” she said.

Shum, who is currently a park board commissioner, introduced a motion to add change tables to all gender and accessible washrooms in Park Board buildings, such as community centres. It passed unanimously last week.

Now she says that’s something she wants to see in all public buildings in Vancouver.

The motion was inspired by Barack Obama’s BABIES Act, which put change tables in the bathrooms of every publically accessible U.S. federal building.

As roles shift and dads do more parenting across North America, a variety of buildings have been under more pressure to provide tools for them too.

In Florida last week, a man’s photo of himself squatting on the bathroom floor and changing a diaper with his baby in his lap was shared widely on Instagram with the hashtag #squatforchange.

“We do exist, and we are willing to do more than provide and protect,” said Donte Palmer.

In Quebec earlier this year, another man pressured Tim Hortons to equip its bathrooms too – and the chain agreed.

The motion seems to have support from a wide spectrum of city parties. Vision Vancouver’s Catherine Evans, also a park board commissioner looking to be on city council, said things had changed a lot since she was changing diapers in the 1980s.

“It has a lot to do with women’s equality,” she said. Then, facilities were hard to find even for women, because of the assumption they would be more often at home, caring for children. Putting change tables in women’s washrooms was a big step – but now more facilities should have men’s tables too, she said.

“There’s an assumption there. It’s time we caught up. It was the reality but it’s not the reality anymore,” she said.

CTV News found that some park board buildings, like Trout Lake Community Centre, had a change table in the men’s washroom. But at Renfrew Community Centre, it wasn’t there.

NPA park board commissioner turned council candidate Sarah Kirby Yung said the park board had found 96 change tables in park board buildings. She said there is a place to change a child in every building, but it may not be accessible to everyone.

“Some of the gaps are in the older facilities,” she said. “As we’re moving towards universal washrooms, we’re putting those in.”

Some city bathrooms have already been upgraded, and the city’s downtown library has a parenting room.

OneCity candidate Christine Boyle said she supported the idea – and said parents had also raised the issue of accessible bathrooms in transit hubs as well.

“It matters a lot to be looking at how we make Vancouver more family friendly at all levels,” she said.

Each change table is about $400, Shum said.

“Everything we can do to help includes something as simple and practical and affordable like change tables,” she said.

Shum hopes the next time Abigail needs a change, it could be just as easy for her dad to do it. 

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