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

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)
Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we… Continue reading

The frequent disruptions to water service in Chemainus are expected to be a lot less after North Cowichan replaces the Smiley Road water main. (File photo)
Smiley Road water main in Chemainus to be replaced

$890,000 project expected to be completed this spring

Cowichan Tribes open up vaccinations for members who are 40 and older. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes opens up vaccinations for members 18 and older

Vaccination sessions to be held over weekend

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

Most Read