Representatives from four local service providers answer questions from the public regarding harm reduction in Abbotsford.

Harm reduction debated at public forum

Second Abbotsford meeting set for Jan. 29 at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

Abbotsford’s harm reduction debate continues.

The first of two public forums took place Tuesday night at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

About 150 people came out to listen and ask question of representatives from four local service providers – The Women’s Resource Centre of the Fraser Valley/Warm Zone, Kinghaven Peardonville House Treatment Centres, Life Recovery and the Salvation Army.

Harm reduction refers to public health policies designed to reduce harmful consequences and is usually associated with needle exchange programs, free condoms, safe injection sites and other services that help drug users, prostitutes and other at-risk individuals.

Currently, the City of Abbotsford is reviewing its 2005 zoning bylaw that prohibits harm reduction measures, including needle exchanges, from occurring in the city.

In 2010, Fraser Health asked the city to take a second look at the bylaw, on the basis that needle exchanges could help lower cases of Hepatitis C, caused by using dirty needles.

Forum moderator Dr. Adrienne Chan told audience members to keep their questions to the subject of harm reduction and not the city bylaw.

“The purpose of the public consultation is to bring information forward to the city so they can have an informed opinion about where to proceed with the bylaw.”

Audience input was mixed.

Barry Shantz, founder of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, told the panel that withholding a specific type of health care to a specific group of people is a “violation of their charter of rights.”

He also objected to the fact that his, and other groups, were denied representation at the meeting.

“When a city excludes a specific group of people from a process that is affecting them in a negative way, and you participate in some type of charade, I don’t understand how you can do this and discourage other questions. I just want to know if you have some kind of explanation of this whole fiasco?”

Speakers stressed that harm reduction is a health issue, not a sobriety issue and felt that has been forgotten in the debate. Others felt that, while the groups represented all offered services to help addiction, there is no “one way” to treat it.

While several speakers expressed support for harm reduction to help those battling addiction, some felt there were other solutions.

Gerda Peachey told the panel there is a perception in the public that if you oppose harm reduction that you are “cold-hearted” and don’t care. She said that isn’t true.

“It is not a lack of love and it’s not a lack of concern.”

She quoted the saying that when it comes to addiction one is too many and 1,000 is never enough.

“In these 12-step programs they are emphatically saying no. No to providing drugs, no to going off the wagon and having even one … you must not help people to stay on drugs.”

The public will have another opportunity to voice concerns and comments during a second meeting,  Tuesday Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

The guest panel will include representatives from Fraser Health.

Just Posted

Langley church prepares massive meal

A local chef and parishioners are taking charge in the kitchen for St. Joseph’s 25th annual dinner.

Giants ‘stuff’ Cougars

Vancouver blanks Cougars on Teddy Bear Toss night at Langley Events Centre

Star Wars auction in Langley draws ‘crazy’ response

Seller said to be “very happy” with results

Police sketch shows suspect in assault of 23-year-old woman

Incident took place Nov. 14 on Maclure Road in Abbotsford

An unpleasant surprise online for Langley anti-hate campaigner

Text from newspaper article about his efforts was used to link to suspect websites

VIDEO: Langley Christmas Bureau braces for busy toy distribution days

Volunteers spent the weekend sorting gifts donated for kids from Langley’s underprivileged families.

Family suspends search for missing Alberta couple, plane near Revelstoke

Due to bad weather, families of missing Albertan couple say they will resume in the spring

Canadian grocers make $3M per year from penny-rounding: UBC study

Ottawa announced plans in 2012 to phase out the copper coin

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

‘The Last Jedi’ opens with $220M, 2nd best weekend all-time

As anticipated, the movie fell shy of the opening weekend for J.J. Abrams’ 2015 franchise reboot

2 couples tie the knot in Australia’s 1st same-sex weddings

West Australian couple Anne Sedgwick, Lyn Hawkins have been together for 40 years

EDITORIAL: Putting #MeToo to work in your workplace

Workers from top to bottom need to stand together against the bully of sexual harassment

Update: RCMP arrest domestic assault suspect west of Kamloops.

The RCMP Emergency Response Team made the arrest at around 4:30 p.m.

Most Read