Protesters march past the site of Island Health’s new Wellness and Recovery Centre on York Road on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Hundreds march against location of safe injection site

A Voice for Our Children opposes centre being near schools, recreation sites

Well over 300 concerned citizens marched from Cowichan Secondary School to Quamichan School on Saturday morning to voice their opposition to the location of Island Health’s new Wellness and Recovery Centre.

The march passed by the location of the centre on York Road, which will provide services, including a safe injection site, to people with substance-abuse and mental health issues. Organizers of the march are not opposed to the centre but to its location, which is close to four schools, the Cowichan Community Centre, Cowichan Aquatic Centre and Cowichan Sportsplex.

“We understand the service is very much needed,” said Jas Doman, one of the founders of A Voice for Our Children. “But it is not needed 400 metres from Quamichan School, it is not needed 400 metres from Cow High, and it is not needed 500 metres from Alexander Elementary.

“We just want to feel heard. We want to feel heard by [Island Health]. They didn’t speak to one person before they did this.”

Once they gathered at Quamichan, protesters listened to speeches from local business leaders and residents of the area near Warmland House and the new Wellness and Recovery Centre, talking about the changes in the community over the last decade, and concerns about how the increase in substance abuse and homelessness has affected health care and education in the Cowichan Valley.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous that we have to do this,” said Florie Varga, another founder of A Voice for Our Children. “This was done under a veil. There was no community consultation or impact assessment. This is direly needed, but there are multiple interests in a community, and all those interests need to be considered.”

More to come

cowichan valleyIsland Health

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