Sicamous council is looking to prohibit use of illicit drugs in public in municipal parks.
This follows a report from Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil at the Feb. 8 Committee of the Whole meeting, during which he raised concerns around decriminalization of drug use in B.C.
Health Canada recently granted an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to the Province of B.C., decriminalizing possession of 2.5 grams of certain illegal drugs.
This exemption began Jan. 31, 2023, and continues to Jan. 31, 2026. It does not apply to school grounds or licenced child-care facilities, airports or on Canadian Coast Guard vessels and helicopters and, in many cases, illegal drug use continues to be prohibited on private property.
Local governments have authority to pass bylaws restricting public substance use. Without, police cannot issue fines or move people out of public spaces.
At the committee meeting, McNeil mentioned Campbell River’s public nuisance bylaw amendment that changed to include illicit drug use, posting a $200 fine to anyone using drugs on public property.
Sicamous council discussed adopting a similar approach and had development services manager Scott Beeching draft a bylaw amendment, which he brought to the Feb. 22 council meeting.
Bylaw 1034 proposes to amend the district’s Parks Regulation Bylaw 393, 2000, adding a definition of illicit drugs and where their use is prohibited.
The bylaw states ‘illicit drugs’ prohibited from use in public parks include opioids, crack or powder cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamines (the drugs supported in the exemption).
The bylaw will read that “using, including smoking or injecting, illicit drugs is prohibited in the following parks: River Front Nature Trail Park, Sicamous Beach Park, Finlayson Park, Shuswap Avenue Park, Beach Area at Tecumseh Road, Beach Area at Cartier Road, all designated children’s play areas, and Lot C, located off of Hillier Road East, adjacent to the Eagle River.”
More detailed descriptions of the locations’ lot numbers and planning information is included.
Interior Health Medical Health Officer (MHO) Dr. Jonathon Malo sent a letter to council, offering a consultation period on Feb. 27 to consider the bylaw’s impacts on drug users and urging council not to proceed before the discussion.
Beeching said he attended a webinar on the subject and the main issue when prohibiting use was the concern it could impact users in a negative way, putting them at risk when they don’t want to seek help or notify emergency services, which is what the decriminalization policy is trying to change.
Beeching said the bylaw amendment is prepared and it works the same as the one prohibiting cannabis and alcohol consumption in public spaces.
He also said Campbell River’s bylaw is being challenged in court so council may want to wait and see what happens. It is council’s decision whether to expand the scope of the bylaw to include all public spaces as the amendment only covers parks.
Councillors were in agreement the bylaw amendment should proceed and the consultation request with the MHO was valid.
After discussion, the proposal was given first and second reading, with the option to change it further to include more spaces as it moves forward.
Responding to comments about uniting with Campbell River and other small communities to present as a group the need for more regulation, Mayor Colleen Anderson said she’s reached out to other mayors and has heard nothing back.