Island Health Overdose Advisory For The Cowichan Valley – 24 April 2019

Island Health issued the following Overdose Advisory for the Cowichan Valley on 24 April 2019:

Island Health Overdose Advisory for the Cowichan Valley, released 24 April 2019
Island Health Overdose Advisory for the Cowichan Valley, released 24 April 2019

We contacted Island Health on 25 April 2019 and asked for clarification of this Overdoes Advisory.

Our initial question was: “When you say “increase in overdoses” what are the actual figures? How many in the past week compared to whatever benchmark figure(s) you are using in comparison?” 

Island Health responded within a few hours, saying:  “Thank you for your question. During the week of Apr.14-20, there were 12 overdoses at the Cowichan OPS, which is more than double this site’s moving average (3.4 overdoses each week).”

The Cowichan OPS (Overdose Prevention Site) is located at 221 Trunk Road.  So the Overdose Advisory is based only on Overdoses which happened at the Cowichan OPS (Overdose Prevention Site) is located at 221 Trunk Road.

So we asked Island Health two follow up questions:

“Thanks for the reply. So this is based only on OD’s at the Cowichan OPS on Trunk Road? Any other OD’s in the area during the past week?”

“Also, is there a stronger strain of drug out there? Any idea(s) on why this happened in the past week? Any thoughts on whether it will be an ongoing issue?”

Island Health has not responded to these questions at the time of this post but we will post the island Health answer(s) when we get it/them.

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Councillor Jenni Capps Votes In Favour Of A Resolution “Safer Drug Supply To Save Lives” – But The Resolution Is Very Vague About What That Entails

Jenni Capps, candidate for Duncan City Council (photo: Cowichan Valley Citizen)
Jenni Capps, elected to Duncan City Council on 20 October 2018 (photo: Cowichan Valley Citizen)

Councillor Jenni Capps attended the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) Convention in Powell River between 12-14 April 2019.

Here is a link to the AVICC 2019 program and Resolutions [note:PDF, 96 pages]

On her Facebook page she reported the following about the AVICC Convention:

Jenni Capps spoke at AVICC in favour of Resolution 2Lowering the Voting Age In Municipal Elections To 16

She also voted in favour of Resolution 26, proposed by the City of Victoria:

Safer Drug Supply to Save Lives [proposed by the City of Victoria]

WHEREAS It has been two years since B.C. declared a public-health emergency due to increased overdoses, yet the death toll for those consuming substances continues to rise due to an unpredictable and highly-toxic drug supply;

AND WHEREAS people with opioid use disorder, a chronic relapsing medical condition, are at high risk overdose-related harms including death and an estimated 42,200 people inject toxic substances in British Columbia, it is not possible for the treatment system to rapidly increase services fast enough to manage this number of people as “patients” within a medical treatment model given the many challenges in achieving and retaining the people on opioid use disorder treatment, people at risk of overdose in British Columbia do not have access to a safer alternative to the unpredictable, highly toxic drug supply:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that in an effort to save lives and reduce harm due to an unpredictable and highly-toxic drug supply, and as part of a holistic response to the public-health emergency, including prevention, treatment, and recovery, that the Province of British Columbia work with local communities, Health Authorities across the Province, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Ministry of Health ensure that people at risk of overdose harm have access to safer alternatives.

Resolutions Committee recommendation: No Recommendation

Resolutions Committee comments:

The Resolutions Committee advises that while the UBCM membership has previously endorsed
resolutions calling for action by the provincial and federal governments to address overdose-related
harms, the membership has not previously considered a resolution asking the provincial government
to work specifically with local communities to ensure that people at risk of overdose harm have access
to safer alternatives.

On the issue of overdose, the membership has previously endorsed resolutions requesting publicly
available, anonymized, opioid prescription rates, by community (2018-B170), a comprehensive and
culturally safe public health approach to the opioid crisis (2018-B142, 2017-B71). ”

Our Comments: We have some major reservations about Resolution 26 because it is unclear what it means.

Are the City of Victoria and AVICC advocating giving pharmaceutical grade heroin to addicts through prescriptions? If that is the case, we think that will lead to a Cowichan Valley replication of the situation described in the video Seattle Is Dying, which we have posted on this website. We definitely cannot support that scenario or that policy.

Or, does Resolution 26 mean a program like the Rhode Island program described at the end of the Seattle Is Dying video? The Rhode Island program involves putting addicts on heroin replacements like Methadone and it is a program we could support if implemented in B.C.

We cannot say more at this time because Resolution 26, as written, is totally unclear about what a Safer Drug Supply to Save Lives program would look like.

Until clarification is provided, we reserve judgement on this proposal and Resolution. But we will oppose any effort to supply heroin addicts with pharmaceutical grade heroin by prescription if that is, in fact, what this Resolution entails.

Here is the video Seattle Is Dying, which we have posted on this website. We note that video had about 1,700,000 YouTube views when we first posted it on 1 April 2019. Today, it has had 2,652,865 views on YouTube.

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Recommended Video: Seattle Is Dying

Councillor Garry Bruce has told us that Inspector Chris Bear of the Duncan/North Cowichan RCMP Detachment has recommended that Cowichan Valley Mayors, Councillors and CVRD Directors watch a video called Seattle Is Dying.

We have just watched Seattle Is Dying and we think Inspector Chris Bear is totally and unequivocally correct in suggesting that local politicians watch this video. But we think all Cowichan Valley citizens should watch it too. Continue reading Recommended Video: Seattle Is Dying

TheDiscourse.ca Is Promoting Duncan Councillor Stacy Middlemiss

Gordon Heppell, candidate for Duncan City Council (photo: Gordon Heppell)
Stacy Middlemiss, candidate for Duncan City Council (photo: Stacy Middlemiss,)

TheDiscourse.ca has published online content promoting Duncan Councillor Stacy Middlemiss.  Here is a link to this content. This content was written by Jacqueline Ronson,  TheDiscourse.ca representative in the Cowichan Valley.

Here is an excerpt from this article by TheDiscourse.ca;

“Last month in the Island Savings Centre’s Arbutus Gallery, Stacy [Middlemiss] hosted an exhibit called Stigmatized about the lived experiences of drug users in the Cowichan Valley. The space was filled with Stacy’s own photographs and quotes from the people she works with…..”

Our comments: The island Savings Centre is operated by the City of Duncan, the Municipality of North Cowichan and the CVRD. Stacy Middlemiss is on the Island Savings Centre Commission, which oversees the facility.

We wondered why Stacy Middlemiss, a member of the Commission which runs the facility, was being given  display space for her own work and projects. We called the Island Savings Centre and were told that this space is run by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council and is made available free of charge to interested parties. But the Cowichan Valley Arts Council web page on the Arbutus Gallery says it is available through rental. We will look into this further.

But onto the TheDiscourse.ca article on Stacy Middlemiss.

Our first question was “So what is TheDiscourse.ca?”

TheDiscourse.ca is owned and operated by Discourse Media Inc., based at 308-877 E. Hastings, Vancouver, B.C.

Here is a Google Street View image of 877 E. Hastings, Vancouver, B.C.

TheDiscourse.ca lists its “foundational partners” as:

So who are these organizations that TheDiscourse.ca describes as “foundational partners”?

CFC (Canadian Film Centre)

The CFC describes itself as:

“The Canadian Film Centre (CFC), celebrating 30 years, is a charitable cultural organization that supports, develops and accelerates the content, careers and companies of Canadian creative and entrepreneurial talent in the screen-based and digital industries. Its uniquely designed programs and initiatives span film, television, screen acting, screen composing and songwriting, and innovative work in the digital media and entertainment technology industries, all of which continue to push boundaries and generate world-class content, products and companies for the global marketplace.”

Fair enough. That sounds fairly innocuous. But the other two “Foundational Partners” are definitely more political.

McConnell Foundation

The McConnell Foundation a private foundation based in Montreal. It describes itself as:

“The McConnell Foundation is a private Canadian foundation that develops and applies innovative approaches to social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges. We do so through granting and investing, capacity buildingconvening, and co-creation with grantees, partners and the public.

We want a country in which:

  •  public, private and social sectors are engaged in active efforts to close the gap between the socioeconomic wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people
  • the public sector, private investors and philanthropists separately and collaboratively deploy financial capital to create positive social and environmental impact
  • social innovation is an integral part of Canada’s innovation ecosystem, enabling civic institutions to co-create policies, initiatives and programs that enable citizens to contribute a diversity of skills and perspectives to Canadian society
  • public, private and civil society sectors act collaboratively and courageously to advance human thriving and address shared challenges
  • humans’ social and economic footprint is in balance with the natural ecosystems that sustain life…..”

In short, the McConnell Foundation is a overtly political organization with a definite political agenda. It is not an impartial investor in Discourse Media Inc.

TheDiscourse.ca describes itself as a “media organizations” and its contributors, like Jacqueline Ronson,  as “journalists”. But “media organizations” and/or “journalists” who are funded by organizations which have an overtly political agenda can hardly be considered independent or impartial “media organizations” and/or “journalists”.

SheEO

SheEO describes itself as:

“SheEO is a radically redesigned ecosystem that supports, finances, and celebrates female innovators.

Launched in 2015 in Canada, this visionary model is emerging as a leading global innovation that is totally unique. Rather than trying to fit women into the existing models and systems and level the playing field, we are creating an entirely new field….

Its website states:

“At SheEO we practice Radical Generosity which we believe is core to creating a new model and a better world….”

SheEo is devoted to making zero interest loans to businesses run by women. Fair enough; we have no problem with that.

But SheEO also appears to have a political purpose which is shared by TheDiscourse.ca and we think Duncan and Cowichan Valley voters should be very aware of this political agenda when reading articles in TheDiscourse.ca.

Our Conclusions

In short, TheDiscourse.ca may describe itself as a “media organization” and its contributors as “journalists” but TheDiscourse.ca appears to have a very definite political agenda. It is backed by some organizations with overtly political goals and agendas.

Duncan and Cowichan Valley voters should be very aware of these political goals and agendas when reading articles in TheDiscourse.ca.

It is not an impartial “news” organization.

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VIHA Finally Admits There Is A Problem With Discarded Needles In Public Places

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is finally admitting that there is a problem with discarded needles in the Cowichan valley. Here is a Cowichan Valley Citizen report about this new VIHA attitude toward discarded needles.

A secure Sharps Disposal box in Duncan's Centennial Park (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A secure Sharps Disposal box in Duncan’s Centennial Park (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

VIHA has played a definite role in creating this problem. It hands out free needles to intravenous drug users but had no definite plans to recover those needles and, in fact, has long denied there was a problem with discarded needles.

When I ran for City of Duncan Council in the fall of 2018 I made a request to the City of Duncan for correspondence between the City of Duncan and VIHA about problems with discarded needles. That correspondence showed VIHA, in effect, denying there were any problems and saying its efforts to recover any discarded needles were adequate and effective.

Some of the VIHA statements quoted in this Cowichan Valley Citizen report indicate VIHA still does not recognize the seriousness of this problem.

““The vast majority of needles are being returned after use, but not all of them,” [Dr. Shannon] Waters said.”

Everyone knows that “not all of them” are being returned to VIHA after use. We see those discarded needles in public places on a daily basis. VIHA will need to prove to us that the “vast majority of needles are being returned after use”. With VIHA’s track record, we are not prepared to simply accept VIHA’s statements to that effect.

“Sometimes discarded needles are found in public areas,” the release stated.” Sometimes? Does VIHA really think we believe this extremely inadequate description of the problem? Discarded needles are found on our streets and in public places on a daily basis. That is far more than “sometimes”.

“The ongoing emergency is also seeing drug paraphernalia, particularly used needles, being discarded in parks, alleys and other public places. This has added to the urgency of the situation.” No kidding? This has been going on for years but, in the past, VIHA has downplayed the seriousness of the problem in its correspondence with the City of Duncan.

Here is a DuncanTaxpayers.ca post about this from September 2018:

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has a program to distribute sterile needles free of charge to intravenous drug users as a way of harm reduction.

In Duncan, the Needle Exchange on Trunk Road is part of this program, funded by VIHA through a contract with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

A secure Sharps Disposal box in Duncan's Centennial Park (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A secure Sharps Disposal box in Duncan’s Centennial Park (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

But while this program undoubtedly has beneficial effects in preventing or reducing diseases and infections which can be transmitted among intravenous drug users through sharing or re-using needles, the fact remains that many of the needles (commonly known as “sharps”) distributed locally to intravenous drug users through this program are not returned to VIHA or to the Needle Exchange for safe disposal.

Instead they are far too often being discarded on public streets and in public spaces where they present a public health hazard.

I think the City of Duncan needs to contact VIHA to discuss solutions to this problem or, at the very least, ways to reduce the number of used needles and syringes discarded on Duncan streets and public spaces. Any contact with VIHA would necessarily need to be done in cooperation with the CVRD and the Municipality of North Cowichan.

There are already efforts to collect these used needles and syringes. The Needle Exchange on Trunk Road is one part of these efforts.

Another example involves secure Sharps Disposal boxes, like the one on the photo at left taken in Duncan’s Centennial Park, into which used needles can be safely deposited.

The Needle Exchange in Duncan hands out these "Contaminated Sharps) containers free of charge. The containers are made of sturdy plastic. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
The Needle Exchange in Duncan hands out these “Contaminated Sharps” containers free of charge. The containers are made of sturdy plastic and hold 10 used sharps. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

The Needle Exchange also hands out portable sharps disposal containers, made of heavy duty plastic, which hold 10 used needles/syringes. A photo of a “Contaminated Sharps” container appears on the left.

Another effort to recover used needles and syringes discarded on streets and publicly accessible spaces is carried out by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team, which is funded by VIHA through a grant to the Canadian Mental Health AssociationCowichan Valley Branch.

The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team recovered over 4400 sharps from local streets and public spaces in the month of August 2018 alone. While I commend the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team for removing these 4400 used sharps from public spaces, the very fact that it did so illustrates the nature and extent of the problem.

I went out with the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team one morning in August [2018]. It was an interesting experience.

One of the first stops was the park at the rear of the Cowichan Aquatic Center at 2653 James Street. Alongside an outdoor skate park immediately north of, and adjacent to, the Cowichan Aquatic Center parking lot we came across a site with discarded needles and other drug related refuse. The photo below shows the location of the site in relation to the Cowichan Aquatic Center and its parking lot.

During a walk with the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team, we came across this drug use refuse left outdoors in a local park by the Cowichan Aquatic Centre (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
During a walk with the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team, we came across this drug use refuse left outdoors in a local park next to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

We then went a few blocks west to a site on Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street. The three photos below show this site., which is near, and across Duncan Street from,  the North Cowichan Fire Department South End Fire Hall at 5851 Duncan Street.

A Warmland Sharps Disposal Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
A Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

Note that the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member shown in the photo is going into this site equipped with limited safety equipment; basically a pair of steel toed boots with a metal shank in the sole, a pair of gloves and a device with a long handle for picking up discarded needles and other items.  He was working on his own and he told me that sites like this one are considered Hazardous Waste sites.

Contrast this situation with the Hazardous Waste site cleanup of 454 Garden Street [see our post about 454 Garden Street here] between 29 March-4 April 2018 which was done by a private contractor following WorkSafeBC regulations and using a five person crew dressed in full HazMat gear at a cost to the City of Duncan of $12,000.

I was quite surprised to see a Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member, working on his own, going into Hazardous Waste sites with very limited safety equipment. During my time working for a Crown corporation I served as an elected union rep and was involved in WorkSafeBC issues and a variety of workplace safety incidents and concerns. I know from personal involvement in unions and WorkSafeBC issues that a union would not tolerate workers going into Hazardous Waste sites, alone and without adequate protective equipment. Nor would WorkSafeBC. But that is what is happening here with workers under contract to VIHA.

A Warmland Sharps Disposal Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
A Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

The photo below shows some of the drug related refuse at this site. The blue plastic vials contained distilled water used to mix a heroin solution. The orange wrappers contained powdered Vitamin C which is mixed with the heroin solution as an anti-coagulant. These items are handed out to intravenous drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan.

Some of the refuse encountered by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
Some of the refuse encountered by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

After spending some time patrolling various sites in Duncan, we went onto Cowichan Tribes land and walked along the E&N Railway track between Trunk Road and Allenby Road. There are several encampments along this section of the E&N Railway track like the ones shown in the photos below.

The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member I was accompanying told me that the residents of these encampments have told Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team members, in no uncertain terms, including threats of physical violence, that Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team members are not welcome in the encampments. The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team picks up discarded sharps on the E&N Railway tracks but does not enter the encampments.

A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

The photo below shows the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member I was accompanying investigating another site on Cowichan Tribes land near the E&N railway track.

A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member checks a site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

It seems to me that there are some definite problems with this. The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has a program to distribute sterile needles free of charge to intravenous drug users as a way of harm reduction.  This makes sense.

But there doesn’t not seem to be an adequate plan to get these needles back again. Instead these needles are ending up being discarded on public streets and in public spaces.

The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team picked up 4400 discarded sharps from local streets and public spaces in August 2018 alone. But while that is a commendable effort the fact that there were at least 4400 discarded sharps on public streets and public spaces illustrates the fact that there is a serious problem with discarded needles in public spaces.

VIHA provides financial support for the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team. The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team members are going out to collect these discarded needles with little in the way of protective equipment. They are going into places which would typically be considered HazMat sites without any HazMat protective gear.

I asked the member of the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team whom I accompanied what he thought some solutions might be. His first response was that the most effective solution might be to start a program similar to a bottle depot which pays the intravenous drug users a small fee, say 5 cents, for each sharp they turn in to the Needle Exchange.

That makes some sense to me. People collect bottles and cans to return to the Bottle Depot for 5 cents per bottle or can so there could be a similar kind of program for sharps. But then what would happen if children started going out to look for sharps in order to collect cash for their return? That would create some unwanted public health and safety concerns.

But the bottom line is that the current VIHA harm reduction program is handing out free syringes to intravenous drug users and many of those needles are not being returned to VIHA for disposal. Instead they are winding up discarded on city streets where they pose the potential for causing harm to others. In August 2018 the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team picked up over 4400 discarded sharps from local streets.

I think Duncan and other municipalities really need to have some serious discussions with VIHA about the problem of discarded sharps on local streets and how to reduce the problem.

Mark Anderson – Candidate for Duncan Council – 22 September 2018

Update – 5 October 2018:

Since writing the above post, I contacted the City of Duncan about this issue and received the following answers. My questions and the City of Duncan staff answers appear below:

Q. Has the City of Duncan had contact with Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) regarding their practice
of providing free syringes to intravenous drug users and VIHA’s programs to collect those syringes for
disposal after use? If so, when? Has VIHA made presentations, reports or correspondence to the City of
Duncan regarding the issue of discarded used syringes? If so, when? 

A. Yes, representatives from VIHA, Dr. Hasselback, has presented to the Committee of the Whole on the
overdose crisis, which included mention of the harm reduction practice of providing free needles, on April 4,
2016 (link to minutes; link to presentation ) On May 1, 2016, Dr. Hasselback also attended a closed
Committee of the Whole meeting. On June 5, 2017, Mayor Kent provided a verbal update on the Overdose
Prevention Site and Sharps (link to minutes).

Q. Has the City of Duncan made representations, recommendations or suggests to VIHA on the issue of
discarded syringes, collection of discarded/used syringes or related matters? Are any such communications
between VIHA and the City of Duncan available to the public? 

A. Yes, on June 6 correspondence was sent to VIHA, the following is an excerpt regarding discarded syringes:

“On behalf of Council, staff, and our community, I am writing this letter to apprise you of a situation, that
over the past year, has become a huge problem for the City of Duncan and surrounding area. I am
speaking of the proliferation of needles being discarded throughout our area. It is felt that part of the
cause is the manner in which needles are being distributed to drug users by the Vancouver Island health
Authority. These needles are being handed out in large numbers by the Margaret Moss Health Unit,
Duncan-Drug & Alcohol Counselling Services Clinic, Warmland Shelter, the Central Vancouver Island Harm
Reduction Services (CVIHRS – NARSF), the Duncan – MHSU Office, the Duncan ACT office, and Ts’ewulhtun
Health Centre, with no programs to encourage the self return of needles by users.

We understand from speaking with the various agencies that collectively approximately 10,000 needles
are being distributed each month in our area alone. Many of those used needles are being discarded in
the City’s parks, tossed into public washroom feminine hygiene products receptacles, eaves troughs river
banks, and on property owned by businesses and residents. Council is extremely concerned for the safety
of its employees, citizens, and particularly the children. ”

The City received a response from VIHA on June 27, which included the following:

“Reducing the number of inappropriately discarded sharps, and collecting and safely disposing of sharps is
a shared responsibility between health care services, community agencies, local government and
substance users. Island Health has been working, and continues to work with, all of these stakeholders to
strengthen sharps disposal processes. This includes a new contract with the Cowichan Valley Branch of
the Canadian Mental Health Association for sharps collection seven days per week for an initial period of
six months. This service will be in place before the end of June and is in addition to other sharps collection
activities in the Cowichan Valley, including designated drop-off locations, the installation of disposal units in targeted areas, and sweeps around the Warmlands facility.

These collection activities complement ongoing programs and awareness activities that encourage users
to collect and return sharps. This includes the provision of purpose-designed sharps disposal containers
that are supplied with new sharps when they are distributed, and awareness information for users on
how to responsibly handle and dispose of used sharps. As a result of these actions, Island Health is
confident the vast majority of sharps that are handed out are collected and returned for safe disposal.”

Note: I do not share the confidence VIHA has expressed in the last sentence of this response. I think Cowichan Valley municipalities will have take a collaborative approach to VIHA about this situation.

Mark Anderson – Candidate for Duncan Council – 5 October 2018

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The City of Duncan Is Drafting A Controlled Substances Property Bylaw – Which DuncanTaxpayers.ca Supports

At the City of Duncan Council meeting on 21 January 2018, Council passed a Motion directing City of Duncan staff to draft a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw.

DuncanTaxpayers.ca supports the passing of a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw. Here is a post on DuncanTaxpayers.ca from the fall of 2018:

Since November 2017 there have been two houses in Duncan on which the RCMP has executed search warrants for drug related offences and which have been found to have significant drug related refuse inside the houses and outside on the surrounding property. These houses are: 454 Garden Street, on which a search warrant was executed on November 2017, and a house in the 1000 block of Trunk Road, on which a search warrant was executed on 5 September 2018.

454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking south east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking south east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

At the request of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP I am not identifying the address of the house raided on 5 September 2018 in the 1000 block of Trunk Road at this time.

Fetanyl, discarded needles and other drug related items were found in both these houses.

This creates a definite public health issue which needs to be addressed and which Duncan’s current Bylaws do not adequately address or remedy

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Detachment building, 6060 Canada Avenue, North Cowichan (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Detachment building, 6060 Canada Avenue, North Cowichan (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

In the case of 454 Garden Street, the RCMP executed a search warrant on the property on 26 November 2017 which resulted in the arrest of 15 people. The condition of the property was so bad that City of Duncan Bylaw Enforcement officer Garry Kerr said “Nobody from the City of Duncan would enter that residence due to fear of contamination.”

Current City of Duncan Bylaws do not allow the City of Duncan, or a contractor employed by the City of Duncan, to simply go onto the property to carry out a clean up. Negotiations between the City of Duncan and the owner of 454 Garden Street regarding a cleanup of the property went on for nearly 4 months without any cleanup being done.

Finally, on 29 March 2018, four months after the RCMP search warrant was executed on 454 Garden Street in November 2017, the City of Duncan retained a hazardous materials remediation contractor, Lakeside Property Maintenance, to clean up the exterior of 454 Garden Street.

I spoke with the owner of Lakeside Property Maintenance who told me that the company had employed a crew of five people wearing full hazardous material protective equipment to carry out the work on the exterior and grounds of 454 Garden StreetLakeside Property Maintenance removed 5 five gallon pails full of used syringes from 454 Garden Street along with 30-40 cubic yards of other drug related refuse.

The $12,000 cost of the clean up has been charged to the property owner through the City of Duncan property taxes on the property. As of 18 September 2018 the City of Duncan has not been reimbursed for the clean up costs.

But the important issue here is about public health and safety. A hazardous waste site at 454 Garden Street near downtown Duncan, containing enough discarded used syringes to fill 5 five gallon pails, along with 30-40 cubic yards of other drug related refuse, was left unremediated for four months before the City of Duncan was able to retain a private contractor to clean it up. 

Current City of Duncan Bylaws did not give the City of Duncan the authority to immediately clean up the site if the owner was unable, reluctant or unwilling to do so.

Clearly the City of Duncan needs a new Bylaw, or Bylaws, to allow the City to immediately clean up properties which have become drug related hazardous waste site. Allowing a hazardous waste site, like 454 Garden Street, to go unremediated for four months is simply unacceptable.

The RCMP have issued a press release suggesting that the City of Duncan needs a new Bylaw modeled on the Controlled Substance Property Bylaws currently in force in other BC municipalities and districts. As one example, the Municipality of North Cowichan has a Controlled Substance Property Bylaw.

Here are some examples of Controlled Substance Property Bylaws currently in force in other BC municipalities and districts:

As you can see, many of these Bylaws were enacted in the period 2005-2007, when the problems were typically meth labs and marijuana grow ops. Many of these these Bylaws have been updated, or are in the process of being updated, to include fetanyl and opioids.

Paige McWilliam has told me that the City of Duncan has instructed its lawyers to research Controlled Substance Property Bylaws. But the City of Duncan does not currently have a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw.

If elected to City of Duncan Council, I will make it a priority of enact an effective City of Duncan Controlled Substance Property Bylaw as quickly as possible.

 

Note: Some sources have suggested that WorkSafeBC regulations cover these situations. They don’t!

I contacted WorkSafeBC about its procedure for designating a property as a Hazardous waste site and received the following response from Terence Little, the Director, of Corporate Communications.

Here is the WorkSafeBC response in its entirety:

“Hello Mr. Anderson, 

Thank you for your request for information regarding sites that potentially contain hazardous materials. I have been in contact with our Prevention Division and received the following response to your question:

WorkSafeBC does not designate sites as HAZMAT sites. WorkSafeBC’s mandate is to enforce the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR). Within those provisions are requirements for employers to ensure the health and safety of their workers by assessing the risks at worksites and employing appropriate measures to ensure workers are protected from those risks. 

The OHSR requires employers to have a documented Exposure Control Plan, which includes procedures for assessing hazards, including the presence of hazardous substances, at a worksite. This may include requirements for testing materials or environments for hazardous substances. When worksites are contaminated with a hazardous material of substance, the employer is required to ensure that workers have the appropriate training, equipment, and procedures to protect them from that risk.

In terms of limiting access to a work location, this may be done by WorkSafeBC, police agencies, or other regulators, based on their authority and mandate. In situations where work processes present a risk of serious injury, illness, or death to workers, The Workers Compensation Act gives WorkSafeBC the authority to stop work and prohibit worker access to that work location. WorkSafeBC may do this if testing has revealed the presence of hazardous substance but the employer has not taken the necessary steps to protect workers from that hazard. WorkSafeBC would cordon off the location and place a placard at the location with the details and time limit of the order. Limiting worker access to a worksite in this manner is not equivalent to declaring the location a HAZMAT site. 

I hope that answers your questions. Please let me know if I can assist further. 

Regards, Terence. 

Terence Little
Director, Corporate Communications | 604.279.7666

6951 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC
worksafebc.com”

 

Penticton Pharmacy Tries Buying Used Needles From Addicts In An Effort To Get Discarded Needles Off Streets

Here is a Global News report, first aired in July 2018, about a Penticton pharmacy which has started a program to buy back used needles from drug users for 5 cents per needle. The program was started as a way of getting discarded needles off city streets and public places.

This program might be worth trying in Duncan. It was suggested to me in August 2018 by a member of the Warmlands Sharps Pick Up Team whom I accompanied on his rounds.

There are obviously a few serious problems which would need to be addressed before a program like this could be put in place here. What could be done, for example, to prevent children from going out in search of discarded needles to collect the money for their return?

Could this needle return program be effectively restricted to drug users collecting the discarded needles, thereby removing the possibility of children going is search of discarded needles to get the money for their return?

I will contact the Penticton pharmacy mentioned in the Global News report to see how this program has been working in the months since this Global News report aired in July 2018.

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?

Over 1000 Used Needles Recovered From Cowichan River – This Highlights The Problem Of Discarded Needles On Streets And In Public Spaces

The Cowichan Valley Citizen has published an article about volunteers removing over 1000 discarded needles from the Cowichan River last week.

This highlights the serious problem of discarded needles on streets and public spaces in and around Duncan. Below is an updated report I posted this website on 5 October 2018. This Cowichan River incident reinforces my argument that VIHA needs to do much more to get these discarded needles off our streets.

But, as shown in the article below, VIHA is saying its current programs are adequate and is essentially denying there is a problem with discarded needles. I disagree; VIHA need to do much more to deal with this public health and safety problem.

Here is my 5 October 2018 update post on VIHA and Discarded Needles

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has a program to distribute sterile needles free of charge to intravenous drug users as a way of harm reduction.

In Duncan, the Needle Exchange on Trunk Road is part of this program, funded by VIHA through a contract with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

A secure Sharps Disposal box in Duncan's Centennial Park (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A secure Sharps Disposal box in Duncan’s Centennial Park (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

But while this program undoubtedly has beneficial effects in preventing or reducing diseases and infections which can be transmitted among intravenous drug users through sharing or re-using needles, the fact remains that many of the needles (commonly known as “sharps”) distributed locally to intravenous drug users through this program are not returned to VIHA or to the Needle Exchange for safe disposal.

Instead they are far too often being discarded on public streets and in public spaces where they present a public health hazard.

I think the City of Duncan needs to contact VIHA to discuss solutions to this problem or, at the very least, ways to reduce the number of used needles and syringes discarded on Duncan streets and public spaces. Any contact with VIHA would necessarily need to be done in cooperation with Cowichan Tribes, the CVRD and the Municipality of North Cowichan.

There are already efforts to collect these used needles and syringes. The Needle Exchange on Trunk Road is one part of these efforts.

Another example involves secure Sharps Disposal boxes, like the one on the photo at left taken in Duncan’s Centennial Park, into which used needles can be safely deposited.

The Needle Exchange in Duncan hands out these "Contaminated Sharps) containers free of charge. The containers are made of sturdy plastic. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
The Needle Exchange in Duncan hands out these “Contaminated Sharps” containers free of charge. The containers are made of sturdy plastic and hold 10 used sharps. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

The Needle Exchange also hands out portable sharps disposal containers, made of heavy duty plastic, which hold 10 used needles/syringes. A photo of a “Contaminated Sharps” container appears on the left.

Another effort to recover used needles and syringes discarded on streets and publicly accessible spaces is carried out by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team, which is funded by VIHA through a grant to the Canadian Mental Health AssociationCowichan Valley Branch.

The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team recovered over 4400 sharps from local streets and public spaces in the month of August 2018 alone. While I commend the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team for removing these 4400 used sharps from public spaces, the very fact that it did so illustrates the nature and extent of the problem.

I went out with the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team one morning in August. It was an interesting experience.

One of the first stops was the park at the rear of the Cowichan Aquatic Center at 2653 James Street. Alongside an outdoor skate park immediately north of, and adjacent to, the Cowichan Aquatic Center parking lot we came across a site with discarded needles and other drug related refuse. The photo below shows the location of the site in relation to the Cowichan Aquatic Center and its parking lot.

During a walk with the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team, we came across this drug use refuse left outdoors in a local park by the Cowichan Aquatic Centre (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
During a walk with the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team, we came across this drug use refuse left outdoors in a local park next to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

We then went a few blocks west to a site on Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street. The three photos below show this site., which is near, and across Duncan Street from,  the North Cowichan Fire Department South End Fire Hall at 5851 Duncan Street.

A Warmland Sharps Disposal Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
A Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

Note that the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member shown in the photo is going into this site equipped with limited safety equipment; basically a pair of steel toed boots with a metal shank in the sole, a pair of gloves and a device with a long handle for picking up discarded needles and other items.  He was working on his own and he told me that sites like this one are considered Hazardous Waste sites.

Contrast this situation with the Hazardous Waste site cleanup of 454 Garden Street [see our post about 454 Garden Street here] between 29 March-4 April 2018 which was done by a private contractor following WorkSafeBC regulations and using a five person crew dressed in full HazMat gear at a cost to the City of Duncan of $12,000.

I was quite surprised to see a Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member, working on his own, going into Hazardous Waste sites with very limited safety equipment. During my time working for a Crown corporation I served as an elected union rep and was involved in WorkSafeBC issues and a variety of workplace safety incidents and concerns. I know from personal involvement in unions and WorkSafeBC issues that a union would not tolerate workers going into Hazardous Waste sites, alone and without adequate protective equipment. Nor would WorkSafeBC. But that is what is happening here with workers under contract to VIHA.

A Warmland Sharps Disposal Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
A Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

The photo below shows some of the drug related refuse at this site. The blue plastic vials contained distilled water used to mix a heroin solution. The orange wrappers contained powdered Vitamin C which is mixed with the heroin solution as an anti-coagulant. These items are handed out to intravenous drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan.

Some of the refuse encountered by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
Some of the refuse encountered by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member at a drug activity site off Duncan Street between James Street and Beverley Street (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

After spending some time patrolling various sites in Duncan, we went onto Cowichan Tribes land and walked along the E&N Railway track between Trunk Road and Allenby Road. There are several encampments along this section of the E&N Railway track like the ones shown in the photos below.

The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member I was accompanying told me that the residents of these encampments have told Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team members, in no uncertain terms, including threats of physical violence, that Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team members are not welcome in the encampments. The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team picks up discarded sharps on the E&N Railway tracks but does not enter the encampments.

A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

The photo below shows the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member I was accompanying investigating another site on Cowichan Tribes land near the E&N railway track.

A site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Disposal Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
A Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team member checks a site on Cowichan Tribes land patrolled regularly by the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

It seems to me that there are some definite problems with this. The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has a program to distribute sterile needles free of charge to intravenous drug users as a way of harm reduction.  This makes sense.

But there doesn’t not seem to be an adequate plan to get these needles back again. Instead these needles are ending up being discarded on public streets and in public spaces.

The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team picked up 4400 discarded sharps from local streets and public spaces in August 2018 alone. But while that is a commendable effort the fact that there were at least 4400 discarded sharps on public streets and public spaces illustrates the fact that there is a serious problem with discarded needles in public spaces.

VIHA provides financial support for the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team. The Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team members are going out to collect these discarded needles with little in the way of protective equipment. They are going into places which would typically be considered HazMat sites without any HazMat protective gear.

I asked the member of the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team whom I accompanied what he thought some solutions might be. His first response was that the most effective solution might be to start a program similar to a bottle depot which pays the intravenous drug users a small fee, say 5 cents, for each sharp they turn in to the Needle Exchange.

That makes some sense to me. People collect bottles and cans to return to the Bottle Depot for 5 cents per bottle or can so there could be a similar kind of program for sharps. But then what would happen if children started going out to look for sharps in order to collect cash for their return? That would create some unwanted public health and safety concerns.

But the bottom line is that the current VIHA harm reduction program is handing out free syringes to intravenous drug users and many of those needles are not being returned to VIHA for disposal. Instead they are winding up discarded on city streets where they pose the potential for causing harm to others. In August 2018 the Warmland Sharps Pick Up Team picked up over 4400 discarded sharps from local streets.

I think Duncan and other municipalities really need to have some serious discussions with VIHA about the problem of discarded sharps on local streets and how to reduce the problem.

Mark Anderson – Candidate for Duncan Council – 22 September 2018

Update – 5 October 2018:

Since writing the above post, I contacted the City of Duncan about this issue and received the following answers. My questions and the City of Duncan staff answers appear below:

Q. Has the City of Duncan had contact with Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) regarding their practice
of providing free syringes to intravenous drug users and VIHA’s programs to collect those syringes for
disposal after use? If so, when? Has VIHA made presentations, reports or correspondence to the City of
Duncan regarding the issue of discarded used syringes? If so, when? 

A. Yes, representatives from VIHA, Dr. Hasselback, has presented to the Committee of the Whole on the
overdose crisis, which included mention of the harm reduction practice of providing free needles, on April 4,
2016 (link to minutes; link to presentation ) On May 1, 2016, Dr. Hasselback also attended a closed
Committee of the Whole meeting. On June 5, 2017, Mayor Kent provided a verbal update on the Overdose
Prevention Site and Sharps (link to minutes).

Q. Has the City of Duncan made representations, recommendations or suggests to VIHA on the issue of
discarded syringes, collection of discarded/used syringes or related matters? Are any such communications
between VIHA and the City of Duncan available to the public? 

A. Yes, on June 6 correspondence was sent to VIHA, the following is an excerpt regarding discarded syringes:

“On behalf of Council, staff, and our community, I am writing this letter to apprise you of a situation, that
over the past year, has become a huge problem for the City of Duncan and surrounding area. I am
speaking of the proliferation of needles being discarded throughout our area. It is felt that part of the
cause is the manner in which needles are being distributed to drug users by the Vancouver Island health
Authority. These needles are being handed out in large numbers by the Margaret Moss Health Unit,
Duncan-Drug & Alcohol Counselling Services Clinic, Warmland Shelter, the Central Vancouver Island Harm
Reduction Services (CVIHRS – NARSF), the Duncan – MHSU Office, the Duncan ACT office, and Ts’ewulhtun
Health Centre, with no programs to encourage the self return of needles by users.

We understand from speaking with the various agencies that collectively approximately 10,000 needles
are being distributed each month in our area alone. Many of those used needles are being discarded in
the City’s parks, tossed into public washroom feminine hygiene products receptacles, eaves troughs river
banks, and on property owned by businesses and residents. Council is extremely concerned for the safety
of its employees, citizens, and particularly the children. ”

The City received a response from VIHA on June 27, which included the following:

“Reducing the number of inappropriately discarded sharps, and collecting and safely disposing of sharps is
a shared responsibility between health care services, community agencies, local government and
substance users. Island Health has been working, and continues to work with, all of these stakeholders to
strengthen sharps disposal processes. This includes a new contract with the Cowichan Valley Branch of
the Canadian Mental Health Association for sharps collection seven days per week for an initial period of
six months. This service will be in place before the end of June and is in addition to other sharps collection
activities in the Cowichan Valley, including designated drop-off locations, the installation of disposal units in targeted areas, and sweeps around the Warmlands facility.

These collection activities complement ongoing programs and awareness activities that encourage users
to collect and return sharps. This includes the provision of purpose-designed sharps disposal containers
that are supplied with new sharps when they are distributed, and awareness information for users on
how to responsibly handle and dispose of used sharps. As a result of these actions, Island Health is
confident the vast majority of sharps that are handed out are collected and returned for safe disposal.”

Note: I do not share the confidence VIHA has expressed in the last sentence of this response. I think Cowichan Valley municipalities will have take a collaborative approach to VIHA about this situation.

Mark Anderson – Candidate for Duncan Council – 5 October 2018

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?

Update – We Need A Controlled Substances Property Bylaw In Duncan

In a response to an article in the Cowichan Valley Citizen on 12 October 2018, Duncan Mayoral candidate Martin Barker has adopted my idea that Duncan needs to enact a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw.  I put a post about the need for a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw on this website on 18 September but until Martin Barker expressed his support for it on 12 October I have not heard any other candidates talking about this publicly.

I note that Duncan Mayoral candidate Sharon Jackson has also expressed her support for my advocacy of a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw in conversations with me but, to date, she has not used this idea in her own campaign.

Just so everyone understands this issue now that it has also been raised by a Mayoral candidate, here is my original post about the need for a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw, which I posted on this website on 18 September 2018.

Since November 2017 there have been two houses in Duncan on which the RCMP has executed search warrants for drug related offences and which have been found to have significant drug related refuse inside the houses and outside on the surrounding property. These houses are: 454 Garden Street, on which a search warrant was executed on November 2017, and a house in the 1000 block of Trunk Road, on which a search warrant was executed on 5 September 2018.

454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking south east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking south east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

At the request of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP I am not identifying the address of the house raided on 5 September 2018 in the 1000 block of Trunk Road at this time.

Fetanyl, discarded needles and other drug related items were found in both these houses.

This creates a definite public health issue which needs to be addressed and which Duncan’s current Bylaws do not adequately address or remedy

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Detachment building, 6060 Canada Avenue, North Cowichan (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)
The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Detachment building, 6060 Canada Avenue, North Cowichan (photo by Duncan Taxpayers)

In the case of 454 Garden Street, the RCMP executed a search warrant on the property on 26 November 2017 which resulted in the arrest of 15 people. The condition of the property was so bad that City of Duncan Bylaw Enforcement officer Garry Kerr said “Nobody from the City of Duncan would enter that residence due to fear of contamination.”

Current City of Duncan Bylaws do not allow the City of Duncan, or a contractor employed by the City of Duncan, to simply go onto the property to carry out a clean up. Negotiations between the City of Duncan and the owner of 454 Garden Street regarding a cleanup of the property went on for nearly 4 months without any cleanup being done.

Finally, on 29 March 2018, four months after the RCMP search warrant was executed on 454 Garden Street in November 2017, the City of Duncan retained a hazardous materials remediation contractor, Lakeside Property Maintenance, to clean up the exterior of 454 Garden Street.

I spoke with the owner of Lakeside Property Maintenance who told me that the company had employed a crew of five people wearing full hazardous material protective equipment to carry out the work on the exterior and grounds of 454 Garden StreetLakeside Property Maintenance removed 5 five gallon pails full of used syringes from 454 Garden Street along with 30-40 cubic yards of other drug related refuse.

The $12,000 cost of the clean up has been charged to the property owner through the City of Duncan property taxes on the property. As of 18 September 2018 the City of Duncan has not been reimbursed for the clean up costs.

But the important issue here is about public health and safety. A hazardous waste site at 454 Garden Street near downtown Duncan, containing enough discarded used syringes to fill 5 five gallon pails, along with 30-40 cubic yards of other drug related refuse, was left unremediated for four months before the City of Duncan was able to retain a private contractor to clean it up. 

Current City of Duncan Bylaws did not give the City of Duncan the authority to immediately clean up the site if the owner was unable, reluctant or unwilling to do so.

Clearly the City of Duncan needs a new Bylaw, or Bylaws, to allow the City to immediately clean up properties which have become drug related hazardous waste site. Allowing a hazardous waste site, like 454 Garden Street, to go unremediated for four months is simply unacceptable.

The RCMP have issued a press release suggesting that the City of Duncan needs a new Bylaw modeled on the Controlled Substance Property Bylaws currently in force in other BC municipalities and districts. As one example, the Municipality of North Cowichan has a Controlled Substance Property Bylaw.

Here are some examples of Controlled Substance Property Bylaws currently in force in other BC municipalities and districts:

As you can see, many of these Bylaws were enacted in the period 2005-2007, when the problems were typically meth labs and marijuana grow ops. Many of these these Bylaws have been updated, or are in the process of being updated, to include fetanyl and opioids.

Paige McWilliam has told me that the City of Duncan has instructed its lawyers to research Controlled Substance Property Bylaws. But the City of Duncan does not currently have a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw.

If elected to City of Duncan Council, I will make it a priority of enact an effective City of Duncan Controlled Substance Property Bylaw as quickly as possible.

 

Note: Some sources have suggested that WorkSafeBC regulations cover these situations. They don’t!

I contacted WorkSafeBC about its procedure for designating a property as a Hazardous waste site and received the following response from Terence Little, the Director, of Corporate Communications.

Here is the WorkSafeBC response in its entirety:

“Hello Mr. Anderson, 

Thank you for your request for information regarding sites that potentially contain hazardous materials. I have been in contact with our Prevention Division and received the following response to your question:

WorkSafeBC does not designate sites as HAZMAT sites. WorkSafeBC’s mandate is to enforce the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR). Within those provisions are requirements for employers to ensure the health and safety of their workers by assessing the risks at worksites and employing appropriate measures to ensure workers are protected from those risks. 

The OHSR requires employers to have a documented Exposure Control Plan, which includes procedures for assessing hazards, including the presence of hazardous substances, at a worksite. This may include requirements for testing materials or environments for hazardous substances. When worksites are contaminated with a hazardous material of substance, the employer is required to ensure that workers have the appropriate training, equipment, and procedures to protect them from that risk.

In terms of limiting access to a work location, this may be done by WorkSafeBC, police agencies, or other regulators, based on their authority and mandate. In situations where work processes present a risk of serious injury, illness, or death to workers, The Workers Compensation Act gives WorkSafeBC the authority to stop work and prohibit worker access to that work location. WorkSafeBC may do this if testing has revealed the presence of hazardous substance but the employer has not taken the necessary steps to protect workers from that hazard. WorkSafeBC would cordon off the location and place a placard at the location with the details and time limit of the order. Limiting worker access to a worksite in this manner is not equivalent to declaring the location a HAZMAT site. 

I hope that answers your questions. Please let me know if I can assist further. 

Regards, Terence. 

Terence Little
Director, Corporate Communications | 604.279.7666

6951 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC
worksafebc.com”

 

Update – City of Duncan Costs And Enforcement Efforts At 454 Garden Street – Drug Related Issues

A few weeks ago I put up a post on this website about the drug related issues at 454 Garden Street and the costs to the City of Duncan for Bylaw Enforcement and clean up of the site. I also argued that this case highlights the need for a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw to be enacted by the City of Duncan.

Since my original post (which I have also included below) the City of Duncan has responded to a question I asked of staff and has released information on the Bylaw Enforcement efforts made and the costs incurred by the City of Duncan in cleaning up the house and grounds of 454 Garden Street after it had been turned into a hazardous waste site by drug related activity.

First, here is the information released by the City of Duncan in response to my question:

City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)

For background on this situation, here is my original post on 454 Garden Street:

454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking north east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking north east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

The City of Duncan is having some serious issues with a property at 454 Garden Street. This house and property has been declared a “hazardous waste site” due to rampant drug use having taken place on the property.

In March and April 2018 the City of Duncan spent over $12,000 to have a local private hazardous waste contractor, Lakeside Property Maintenance, based in Lake Cowichan, remove used syringes and other drug related material from the house and yard at 454 Garden Street.

I spoke with the owner of Lakeside Property Maintenance, who told me that the work at 454 Garden Street was carried out over four days, 29 March 2018 and 2-4 April 2018, and involved a crew of five people wearing full hazardous material protective equipment. Lakeside Property Maintenance removed 5 five gallon pails full of used syringes from the property along with 30-40 cubic yards of other drug related refuse.

The $12,000 cost of the clean up has been charged to the property owner through the City of Duncan property taxes on the property. As of 5 September 2018 the City of Duncan has not been reimbursed for the clean up costs.

Here is a Google Street View image showing how this house at 454 Garden Street appeared in 2015:

Here are photos of 454 Garden Street taken on 31 July 2018:

454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking south east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking south east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking north east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
454 Garden Street, Duncan on 31 July 2018, looking north east (photo: DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

I have asked the City of Duncan for information on the situation regarding 454 Garden Street but Paige McWilliam has told me I will need to submit a Freedom of Information request to get that information. I have submitted a Freedom of Information request for this information but the City of Duncan has until October 2018 to respond to the request. I will post the information released by the City of Duncan when I receive it.

In the meantime, here is some background to the current situation:

454 Garden Street was purchased by a Victoria based investor for $182,000 on 30 June 2015. It was then rented to tenants.

I do not know how many tenants rented 454 Garden Street after July 2015 but by the fall of 2017 the house had acquired a reputation in the surrounding neighbourhood as a “flop house” and what might commonly be referred to as a “crack house” where constant and rampant drug related activity was taking place. The City of Duncan and the local RCMP received numerous complaints from neighbours about the illegal activities taking place at 454 Garden Street.

On 26 November 2017 the Duncan/North Cowichan RCMP executed a search warrant at 454 Garden Street which resulted in the arrest of 15 people. I contacted the Duncan?North Cowichan RCMP to ask for details of the case but the RCMP advised me they cannot comment or release any information about the case due to privacy legislation.

But a Times-Colonist article about the search warrant execution, published 29 November 2017, quoted RCMP officers as saying the property “was littered with hundreds of needles and contaminated with fentanyl” and quoting City of Duncan Bylaw Enforcement Officer Garry Kerr as saying “the conditions of the house were the worst he’s seen since his time with the municipality.

“Nobody from the City of Duncan would enter that residence due to fear of contamination,” he said.”

The presence of fentanyl, used syringes and other drug refuse in the house and on the property meant it was a hazardous waste site and unfit for habitation. That required that WorksafeBC become involved in regulating the clean up of the site.

Between November 2017 and April 2018, the City of Duncan held many discussions with the owner of 454 Garden Street about cleaning up the site. These discussions were unsuccessful and did not lead to a clean up of the site.

In March 2018 the City of Duncan decided to clean up the site and retained Lakeside Property Maintenance, based in Lake Cowichan, to remove used syringes and other drug related material from the house and yard at 454 Garden Street. As noted above Lakeside Property Maintenance spent four days at the site with a crew of five removing five 5 gallon pails full of used syringes from the property along with 30-40 cubic yards of other drug related refuse.

This begs an obvious question: why was this site allowed to sit as an unremediated hazardous waste site between the RCMP raid on 26 November 2017 and 29 March 2018, when Lakeside Property Maintenance began cleaning up the property under contract to the City of Duncan?

The property was obviously a public health hazard during this time and I will be looking into why it was not cleaned up before that time. I will post what I found out about this. But I think the City of Duncan definitely needs a Controlled Substances Property Bylaw, modeled on other such Bylaws enacted by many other municipalities and districts in B.C.

Some Additional Background Information

Here is some additional information on 454 Garden Street [note: I will be adding more to this section in the next few weeks]:

The City of Duncan Bylaw Enforcement dealt with the drug issues on this property under Bylaw 3156, the Good Neighbour Bylaw, enacted in the summer of 2017.

Here are some City of Duncan documents leading up to enacting of the City of Duncan Bylaw 3156, Good Neighbour Bylaw:

Here are the City of Duncan statistics on Bylaw Enforcement efforts and Clean Up costs associated with 545 Garden Street. This information was released in response to my questions on 454 Garden Street:

City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)
City of Duncan statistics on costs and enforcement efforts on the property at 454 Garden Street (source: City of Duncan)

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?