Officials from the City of Duncan will be meeting with a number of provincial ministers at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention to discuss finding solutions to a number of pressing social issues in the city.
Those growing issues include housing unaffordability, opioid use, mental health, homelessness, and crime and they are mostly outside the jurisdiction and control of local governments.
The city has recently completed a position paper on these issues which states that Duncan has focused on doing what it can with its limited resources and authority to deal with them, while lobbying for provincial and federal changes at the same time to better address what can be done.
The paper said the city will continue to engage senior levels of government about them at every opportunity, including the upcoming UBCM meeting, which will be held Sept. 14-17 in Vancouver.
The paper points out that the primary responsibilities of local governments are providing water, sewer, storm, local roads, recreation, and land-use regulations, and senior levels of government are responsible for much of the rest.
“With the knowledge that businesses and residents were being more and more heavily impacted by the [above mentioned] issues, the current council made addressing them a priority immediately after the election in 2018, as the status quo was not working,” the policy paper said.
“This council has embarked on the Safer Community Plan, increased neighbourhood supports, increased spending on security and bylaw enforcement, and held conference calls with various provincial ministers.”
But, despite the work and initiatives taken by the city where it does have some authority, the policy paper points out that there is still some frustration from the community directed at the city for not doing enough.
“While frustration is certainly understandable, misinformation and uninformed accusations are not,” the paper said.
“These have led some to believe the false narrative that the city and council does not care, is doing nothing, and somehow accepts this level of community disruption, while the reality is that the city has been taking action in many areas. The city does not respond to comments on various social media sites, but always responds to emails and letters that often include the same inaccurate rumours and innuendo found on social media.”
Mayor Michelle Staples said council and the city are working hard to make Duncan the best it can be, “but there is no easy fix, no one-size-fits-all response to address what is happening”.
“It will take a multi-pronged approach, including providing treatment beds, mental health facilities, affordable and supportive housing, services and programs for those needing a hand up and the capacity and resources required to ensure courts and correctional supports and services are there to address the disruptors and criminal elements, such as drug dealing and theft,” Staples said.
“This is not to suggest that people who are unsheltered are criminals, we know that only a small percentage, approximately 10 per cent, are responsible for the majority of the criminal activities taking place. We now have both federal and provincial governments investing resources to meet community needs. We have to work together to ensure that our region, not just our city, stays focused on long-term solutions that provide support, dignity, and safety for everyone.”
CAO Peter de Verteuil added that social issues in the city are a “tough subject matter”.
“In recent years, frustration has been mounting, which is understandable as the issues have grown,” he said.
“However, misinformation, uninformed accusations, and increased stigmatization are not acceptable, and they do not help address these issues.”