Published On: Tuesday, 11 July 2017

"Those" People

- Catherine Holt is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. 250.383.7191, CEO@victoriachamber.ca, www.victoriachamber.ca.

GREATER VICTORIA - Over the last year, I have often heard complaints about “those” homeless people. “Those” who do drugs. “Those” who dare ask for a hand-out. “Those” who are causing a disturbance.

I also often hear complaints about “those” rich and privileged business owners. “Those” who don’t care about society’s most vulnerable. “Those” who shouldn’t speak up about how their businesses are affected by homelessness. “Those” who should do and pay more for the privilege of doing business in this community.

When we speak of the challenges we face, we need to remove the word “those” from our lexicon. We need to speak in terms of “we” and “our”.

We all need a healthy community, where all people are heard, seen, and are safe. We all need a strong economy, where businesses make money to pay taxes, donate to charities, charge competitive prices, and pay employees a fair wage.

We need only to hold up the fentanyl crisis to prove my point. It is not “those” people who are dying –on the streets and at home. They are our children, our family members, our friends, our co-workers. Our front line responders are dealing with overdoses daily. Our schools are stocking Naloxone kits.

Our health care and public safety systems are struggling to respond. Our businesses such as STS Pain Pharmacy and our research centres of excellence such as the University of Victoria are doing what they can to help identify, catalogue, and share warnings of fentanyl-contaminated drugs.

Our business community is working hard to build a healthy community and strong economy. Our business leaders and owners are serving on non-profit boards and advisory teams, making donations and in-kind contributions, offering employment, a helping hand, and more.

As the voice of regional businesses, we at the Greater Victoria Chamber are also hard at work addressing homelessness, mental illness and addictions, not just to mitigate its effect on our economy but, as our board frequently says, “it is the right thing to do”.

For example, we recognize that the consequences of un- and under-treated mental illnesses and addictions are substantive, and can present themselves as rising levels of homelessness, crime, unemployment, lost productivity, policing costs, and government spending. This is a provincial and national responsibility.

To that end, we presented a policy resolution titled Safe Communities and Strong Economies – Mental Health and Addictions in BC at the recent BC Chamber conference. This resolution, which was fully endorsed by conference delegates, recommends that the Province commission an expedited study to re-design the current mental health service model and ensure the work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response continues and is appropriately funded.

With the power of the BC business community behind us, we will continue to advocate for governments to take effective and appropriate action to deliver a safe community and a strong economy in Greater Victoria.

Our community of Greater Victoria business leaders and owners are working towards the goal of a healthy, safe community for all. We are in this together.