Statement from the Mayor - Addressing Social Issues in Kamloops

28 March 2022

Addressing Social Issues in Kamloops - We Will Not Give Up

March 28, 2022—This past weekend highlighted many social issues in our community that I want to address and discuss. Over the weekend, the downtown McDonalds announced its closure for many reasons, including open drug use and safety concerns; there was an overdose in the public washroom of a popular department store; and there were likely many other instances throughout our community that were not as public.

While this happened here, in our home, unfortunately these things are occurring throughout the province and across the country. The drug supply in BC is toxic, and Kamloops is no exception. Sadly, persons addicted to drugs are dying at an alarming rate, and last month, Kamloops had the third highest number in the province.

Drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness are health issues, not criminal issues. Council and I are working together with the City on many fronts to assist, including the following:

  • supporting additional Car 40 units
  • calling for a sobering centre
  • constantly lobbying for more detox and recovery beds for youth and adults
  • working with the school district on anti-gang and anti-drug messaging for students
  • conducting research with TRU through the Researcher-in-Residence program on street issues
  • authorizing an increase in the strength of our local RCMP detachment
  • working extensively with the Chamber of Commerce and initiating an anti-tagging and graffiti program
  • constantly liaising with the North Shore Business Improvement Association and the Downtown Business Improvement Association
  • adding 20 new Community Service Officers and expanded their program to 24/7 coverage of the streets
  • working on situation tables to discuss individual clients and treatment plans for them with care providers
  • expanding the Safe and Secure Kamloops Committee into a larger, more inclusive structure to support a safe and secure community with four engagement groups (protective and safety services, social agencies, neighbourhood associations, and business sector)
  • working closely with and supporting the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), ASK Wellness, The Mustard Seed, and other shelter and social housing providers
  • lobbying hard for a complex care facility in Kamloops
  • meeting with our MP and asking for Criminal Code changes
  • lobbying the Crown Prosecutors Office for changes to the charge assessment standards
  • supporting CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) talks with neighbourhood associations and with business
  • working regularly with BC Housing to get more supportive and subsidized housing opportunities for those local residents that are street affected
  • working at the federal level with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, working at the local level with the Southern Interior Local Government Association (neighbouring municipalities)
  • raising concerns with the Union of BC Municipalities
  • meeting almost weekly with Interior Health and in particular with their mental health and addictions unit to explore new treatment centre options and care models
  • working with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to support the work they are doing on behalf of Indigenous persons in crisis
  • leading community cleanups of our riverbanks
  • administering funding to support the Envision shuttle, which provides outreach and transportation to shelters for people experiencing homelessness (operated by CMHA)
  • administering funding and providing a location to support a day space for people experiencing homelessness at 48 Victoria Street West (April 1 to October 31)—a joint collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous service providers
  • establishing good neighbour agreements with shelter and supportive housing operators with commitments to site management, risk mitigation, and compliance with the Good Neighbour Bylaw
  • funding security services and patrols in commercial corridors and centres to help support a sense of safety for businesses and residents
  • administering funding to support a sharps pickup program that provides employment to people with a lived experience of homelessness and/or substance use—operated by CMHA, ASK Wellness, and The Mustard Seed
  • serving on the provincial decriminalization table and supporting the Province’s efforts around decriminalization
  • continuing to administer federal Reaching Home funds aiming to prevent, reduce, and end homelessness
  • continuing to administer Social and Community Development Grants to address social issues in the community
  • working with Interior Health to enact heat alert response plans and make facilities available for community during extreme heat events
  • working with BC Housing and local service providers to offer shelter and relief for vulnerable people during extreme weather events (heat, cold, and air quality)
  • developing a shelter land use analysis that uses criteria linked to social and community planning principles to help identify areas that may be suitable for future shelter sites
  • establishing a memorandum of understanding to support a collaborative approach between the City and BC Housing with regard the planning, development, operations, and communications for future shelter, supportive housing, and affordable rental housing sites
  • In addition, I support both the decriminalization of personal possession and the provision of a safe supply, and I am working weekly with the BC Urban Mayor’s Caucus; yet sadly, conditions continue to deteriorate.

We will not give up.
The things we are experiencing are new to Kamloops and are unsettling, but they are evident throughout BC, and we will continue to work with all of our partner agencies to curb what is a complex combination of drug addiction, chronic untreated mental illness, and acquired brain injury. We are always open to trying new ideas, and I would invite you to assist us in that regard should there be other approaches we may have missed.

-Mayor Ken Christian