Local governments are working on fixes for Lewis Street crisis

I perceive that we have been making good progress.

Local governments are working on fixes for Lewis Street crisis

Local governments are working on fixes for Lewis Street crisis

Re: “Problems on Lewis Street are extreme”, (Citizen online Nov. 4)

Mr. Woodruff’s letter clearly expresses the frustrations that I hear on almost a daily basis with respect to the public disorder issues in the Lewis Street corridor and elsewhere. As it happens, he and I ran into one another recently in a coffee shop, and discovered that in many ways, we share similar concerns. The fact is that we are dealing with several concurrent crises involving housing, homelessness, and struggles with opioid addictions and mental health. These are not easy issues to tackle by any means, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

I also fully understand that when people see disorder on their streets, their first stop to register their concern is their local government. But the fact is that as local government, we are limited in the scope of what we can do, both legislatively and financially. Which is why, in cooperation with the City of Duncan, Cowichan Tribes, and others, we have arranged for (and held) multiple meetings with the provincial ministers of Health, Mental Health and Addictions, and Housing. The reason for these meetings is that, simply put, the solution to these problems is not just a matter of “building another shelter.” That would be a Band-Aid at best.

What we have been advocating for in these meetings is a holistic approach that not only provides shelter, but also includes the provision of other services; addictions counselling, mental health treatment, life skills coaching, and other necessary services. But the way these things are structured, this will require financial contributions from all of the provincial ministries identified above. The reality is that in government, these ministries often operate in silos that need to be broken down.

I perceive that we have been making good progress. Response from the individual ministers has been positive; they’ve been impressed with the unity our community is demonstrating on this file, and they’ve all committed to look at the specifics of our situation in a holistic way. The biggest frustration in all of this has been how long it has taken, but we need to remind ourselves that these ministers are dealing with literally dozens of other communities with similar problems. Governments, by their very nature, don’t move as quickly as we would like.

Which is why we have taken some interim steps to address the disorder at the local level. For example, in collaboration with the City of Duncan, we have signed onto the Safer Communities Agreement and are on the cusp of opening a Corridor Safety Office. The specific purpose of this is to address crime and disorder along the Trans-Canada Highway corridor between Beverly Street and Boys Road. The plan for this office was developed in consultation with Cowichan Tribes, local business owners, SD 79, health and service providers, the RCMP, and others.

I acknowledge — and Mr. Woodruff’s letter makes clear — that this office is only part of the solution. The longer-term fix involves the broader discussions we’ve been having with the province, as described above. And I’m quite optimistic that we will be in a position to make some very positive announcements as a result of these discussions sometime early in the new year.

Al Siebring, mayor

Municipality of North Cowichan

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A cougar was sighted in the 500 block of Cedar Avenue in Duncan on May 6 at about 9:30 p.m. (Facebook)
Cougar sighted in residential Duncan

Spotted in the Cairnsmore neighbourhood

The Lake Cowichan branch of the Royal Bank of Canada is closing. (Google)
Lake Cowichan’s RBC branch will close in November

RBC says banking needs will still be met

Robert Stutzman, right, and Ajay Oppelaar are the owners of the new Aloha Bowls and Kahuna Burger on Kenneth Street. The men are preparing the eateries’ patio for when they open for business. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Business notes: 2 Hawaiian-themed eateries opening in Duncan

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley business community

The Cowichan Valley Arts Council is offering courses in drawing May through August 2021. (Submitted)
A&E column: Art is everywhere in the Cowichan Valley

What’s going in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies, a tool that chairman Aaron Stone says will improve communications. (File photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read