Penticton Chamber Speaks Out

April 27, 2023

Chamber Believes Penticton Has Already Waited-and-Seen Long Enough; Response to Interior Health’s Request for Observation Period  


PENTICTON – The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce respectfully objects to Interior Health’s request to postpone passing a Penticton bylaw that would make it illegal to consume narcotics in public spaces such as in our parks and sidewalks. British Columbia is in the first of a three-year pilot project decriminalizing small amounts of street drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, crack and powder cocaine, but the provincial government left the door open for cities to pass bylaws around drug use itself.

“While we appreciate the reasons behind Interior Health’s request to collect data on public narcotic consumption, decriminalization by itself is not the answer,” states Nicole Clark, Chamber President. “Everyone refers to the Portugal model and how decriminalization is necessary, but what always seems to be left out is everything else that makes that model so effective.”

In Portugal, drug users have access to a high-level of wraparound services, none of which exist in Penticton. Furthermore, Portugal’s legislation still allows fines and even jail terms if drug users fail to follow the dissuasion commission’s recommendations.

“In Penticton, we were denied funding from Interior Health for a Car-40 program and do not have outreach workers that you’d typically see in an urban centre guiding those suffering from addiction into treatment. Now they want us to hold-off putting restrictions on where people can and cannot ingest narcotics?” ask the Chamber’s Executive Director Michael Magnusson. “The contents of the proposed bylaw put forward to Mayor and Council is not punitive, but rather helps ensure that public areas, especially those visited by families, seniors, tourists, and areas around storefronts are kept as safe and accessible as possible while those with drug dependencies are still able to utilize designated consumption sites.”

Bylaw Enforcement Officers would also be designated as Peace Officers, which would help allow them to resolve less serious matters in the community while providing an added level of protection as assaulting a peace officer is more severe than regular assault.

While the Chamber sympathizes with everyone who has become trapped in addiction and is saddened by the circumstances and stories of those who have become addicted and why, those under the influence of narcotics can display unpredictable and sometimes alarming behaviour. The Chamber believes that Interior Health should instead expedite their investment in treatment and complex care solutions rather than asking communities like Penticton to wait, which has already led to organized groups taking matters into their own hands.

“One could argue that Penticton, along with the rest of province, has waited long enough already, and because things continue to deteriorate for both those suffering from drug-dependency as well as communities at large, local governments must take action to protect their residents and economies until such time as the province and its various health authorities implement meaningful measures to deal with this epidemic.”

Michael Magnusson is the Executive Director of the  Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce





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