Richmond City Council
Richmond City Council This article is more than 2 months old
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Richmond, BC Green Lights New Safe Consumption Site Despite Misinformation Fuelled By Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives

Consumption site was opposed by some residents who echoed right-wing talking points pushed by Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre

City councillors in Richmond, British Columbia have voted to go ahead with a proposed safe and supervised drug consumption site at a local hospital, in spite of emotional opposition from a local group of residents echoing the rhetoric of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.

Tensions have been high in recent weeks as some residents in Richmond spoke out against the proposed supervised consumption site in response to misinformation circulating through the community.

The city of Richmond was forced to put out a statement in response to “a large amount of misinformation and misunderstanding” prior to this week’s public meetings clarifying that supervised consumption sites “do not hand out drugs to users.”

However, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who has been using inflammatory rhetoric and stoking a moral panic surrounding the site, was quick to refer to it as a “drug use site” instead of a supervised consumption site and warned it would lead to “crime, chaos, drugs and disorder in our streets.”

Poilievre and other Conservative MPs have repeatedly used talking points citing “crime, chaos, drugs and disorder” in recent weeks, compounding the widespread panic and misinformation.

Many of the talking points echoed by speakers during eight hours of public consultation that took place over two days were similar to those that have been spread by Poilievre and the Conservatives.

One resident who spoke out against the site claimed “our city is dying, Canada is dying” – echoing similar rhetoric as that pushed by Poilievre, who filmed a video about Canada being “broken” only a year earlier. 

“All the people that spoke were so angry and they were so fearful of this and they’d been fed a line of propaganda from somewhere,” Leslie McBain, a mother with Moms Stop The Harm who also spoke at Monday’s city hall meeting told PressProgress.

“Vancouver is broken. Canada is broken. That’s right straight out of (Poilievre’s) mouth.”

Residents opposed to the consumption site also held “no drugs” signs and chanted the same message at the meeting before the Mayor called on the meeting’s attendees to calm down.

Individuals at Richmond's Tuesday city hall meeting hold up signs reading "no drugs"

Richmond City Council Meeting/Youtube

“This is not some kind of theatre or a carnival,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said. “This is a very solemn occasion where we are making important discussions and decisions for the city.”

Opponents took turns speaking out against the supervised consumption site, with some citing safety concerns while others blamed harm reduction for the overdose crisis.

One Richmond resident opposed to the safe consumption went so far as to say that it was not needed in the community because “only” 26 people died in Richmond due to a toxic drug overdose in 2023. 

However, McBain says that each life lost is a source of pain and grief in the community.

“It is 26 people who lost their lives plus all the people that are impacted and who are grieving forever,” McBain said.

“Many of us have lost our kids. I have lost my child.”

McBain added that the aggressive opposition during the meeting was “difficult” to witness. 

“It felt like every bad thing I’ve ever heard people say about people who use drugs, about harm reduction, about safe supply, about supervised consumption services, every bad thing we’ve ever heard was said that night by the people who are in opposition. It was demoralizing,” McBain added.

“I was devastated.”

Ultimately, city council voted 7-2 in favour of the motion regarding the supervised consumption site, which Vancouver Coastal Health is now tasked to explore.

“I’m convinced of just a couple things. That if this came to fruition, if there was a safe consumption site which was set up, more people are going to get treatment, more drugs are going to be tested,” Mayor Brodie said towards the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

“Those drugs, which are now legal, are going to be done in a much safer way, and in the end, fewer people are going to die.”

Seven people a day are currently dying in BC due to a drug overdose, and drug overdose is currently the leading cause of death in BC for those aged 10 to 59. 

 

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Rumneek Johal
Reporter
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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