A Maple Ridge city councillor is proposing a new bylaw to ban open drug use in city parks and places where people gather.
Coun. Ahmed Yousef served a notice of motion at the April 25 council meeting, to alert his council colleagues that the second-term city councillor will propose the following motion:
“Considering the safety of our community specifically families, youths, and children and the rampant open drug use in municipal parks and public spaces;
“Be it resolved that the City of Maple Ridge enact a prohibition of illicit drug use in all city parks and outdoor public gathering spaces.”
Yousef said this issue became more relevant when the government decriminalized possession of up to 2.5 grams of heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, MDMA, and fentanyl.
He noted there are laws to restrict the public use of liquor and tobacco, which are “significantly less dangerous,” but there is a gap in the control of illicit drug use in public.
Two civic politicians sat in lawn chairs drinking beer on the streets of Duncan this week, to illustrate the same point Yousef is making.
“We can do what’s in our control to provide a better community for our children, youth, and citizens to live in,” said Yousef.
He said open drug use should not be normalized, or it will encourage more young people to try hard drugs.
“When children and seniors are out accessing our parks, they should not be encountering needles and glass pipes,” he added.
The city is fortunate to have its community safety officers, who already help manage issues surrounding the street population, said Yousef, adding that the CSOs also help these people.
Flori Chaykowski, executive director of the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, said open drug use is an issue for her members.
“It happens in front of their businesses, and customers are uncomfortable coming in,” she said. “We’re calling about open drug use often.”
She clarified it is a daily occurrence, and the calls go to Westridge Security.
“Our clean team is out picking up pipes that are left openly on the sidewalk,” Chaykowski added, saying needles, tinfoil and other drug paraphernalia are also left behind.
Yousef has gone to school on the issue, looking at bylaws and proposals from Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, and Campbell River that seek to address open drug use in parks, on beaches, and at playgrounds.
He said city hall staff will research the bylaws from other cities if his motion is passed by council.
He has also cited research into so-called ‘neighbourhood effects,’ and research exploring a neighbourhood’s influence on its residents’ behaviour, mental health, and criminality, to support his call to restrict open drug use.
Yousef said he does not want to be unsympathetic to people who are homeless.
“I don’t want to prohibit people from being there – it’s specific behaviours.”
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