Despite the COVID crisis, we can’t ignore the raging opioid crisis and rising social disorder all over BC.
It's happening everywhere, but I’m particularly frustrated and saddened by what I see happening to Vancouver’s downtown core under the neglect of John Horgan’s NDP government and NDP Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
We can do better.
Stranger assaults are on the rise, with four people being victimized by unprovoked attacks in Vancouver every day. More and more neighbourhoods are increasingly rife with vandalism, theft, violence, and open drug use.
As one shopkeeper recently put it, “I’ve never seen so many windows broken...in the 44 years I’ve been down here.”
I’ve heard stories of hotel staff telling tourists not to go out because pedestrian tourism hotspots are increasingly seen as degraded, depressing, and dangerous.
People and families in the affected neighbourhoods are giving up hope, and the urban left have their heads in the sand. What they’re doing is not compassionate. It’s not common sense. And it’s not enough.
This isn’t an abstract issue for me. I know these neighbourhoods and these issues firsthand.
My first ever rental apartment was in Yaletown. My view out the window was a construction site fronted by a sidewalk that was a hub for street prostitution. As the neighbourhood built out, things improved quickly. But these days, frustrated local residents say it’s getting worse and worse.
Retailers can barely keep up with the broken glass. The other day, someone on social media proposed a government backstop for retailers if they’re unable to get insurance for windows because they are broken over and over again. That’s crazy.
The first home I ever owned was a shoebox of a studio apartment in the Downtown Eastside. There was a methadone clinic next door. My back alley was an open air drug market at one end and a heroin shooting gallery at the other end. The City response was to install a drop box for used needles. I’ll never forget calling 911 for someone overdosing on the street a week after I moved in - and how routine it all was for the ambulance paramedics who responded.
Like a lot of young first-time buyers, that was what I could afford, and it got me onto the property ladder. I hoped the neighbourhood would get better. For a time it did. But under John Horgan and Kennedy Stewart, the Downtown Eastside has gotten worse and worse, with chaos on the streets and more and more tragic deaths.
That’s just not good enough. We can do better, with common sense, compassion, and an integrated approach that includes all of the Four Pillars (harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement).
We need to compassionately take care of the most vulnerable in our society by getting to the root causes, like mental health, intergenerational trauma, and the breakdown of families. We need better education and awareness programs around drug use. And we need to drastically reduce the unacceptable wait times for rehab and recovery programs that can get people back on track.
We need to make sure everyone’s doing their part, whether that’s by improving support in BC communities from which people find their way to places like the Downtown Eastside, or by calling out other provinces across Canada that are passing the burden on to BC instead of taking care of their own people.
We need to make life hell for the criminal drug gangs who are preying on the most vulnerable, making millions, and living the high life, eating at fancy restaurants when they’re not shooting each other in front of them.
And we need to listen to the people, families, and neighbourhood small businesses who are paying the price in property values, lost business, and diminished quality of life. Their anger and frustration is justified and should not be brushed off.
I’ve seen what they’re going through first hand, and I won’t hesitate to ask tough questions, take action, and make it better.