Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Oct. 3, 2005)

Saying ‘No’ to Shooting Galleries

John Pifer

Hats off to Abbotsford council for its new zoning bylaw prohibiting such “harm reduction” programs such as safe injection sites, needle exchanges and methadone clinics.

Obviously the elected representatives of that burgeoning city do not want to follow the stupid and dangerous path that Vancouver adopted a couple of years ago. That policy to provide such “services” at taxpayers’ cost has led to an ever-growing flood of drug abusers flocking to the wet coast to shoot up on government-approved illegal drugs.

By providing shooting galleries to any junkie that wants a fix, Vancouver has thrown in the towel towards putting funds towards rehabilitation, and simply acts as a benevolent cocaine or heroin provider. The fact that the homeless rate in the Big Smoke has doubled in the past couple of years should come as no surprise – the international jungle telegraph has hard-drug users worldwide being told that Vancouver is Nirvana. They pour in because they know that there is one key element of the so-called Four Pillars strategy that has not been applied – enforcement.

No matter what the police across the Lower Mainland do in order to roust the thieves seeking to feed their drug habit, no matter how many times some of these lowlifes are busted, the courts and our mealy-mouthed judges simply let them back onto the mean streets with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. And as for targeting the true villains of the piece – the higher-ups, the wheeler-dealers behind the multi-billion-dollar illegal drug trade – forget about it.

There are earnest, well-meaning people actively involved in trying to help addicts who choose to believe that an inert substance has power over them. These caring individuals have bought into the flawed thinking that maintains that the only thing left to do is to provide a safe environment for addicts to perpetuate their habit, rather than to educate them on how to end it.

In June, Abbotsford council banned the aforementioned services because they were not seen as the best way to deal with drug addiction. Now the council is threatened with action by the provincial government to get with the program and become dope dealers, just as Vancouver council has, in effect, done.

Some health officials are upset that bylaws such as the one Abby approved do not fall under the control of the health ministry, and are spewing statistics saying the financial costs of dealing with infections attributed to dirty needles is enormous, and thus should prompt needle exchanges and safe injection sites. The mandarins prepared a briefing note for Health Minister George Abbott outlining no less than three legal remedies for Victoria to force Abbotsford to toe the line – challenging the bylaw in court, invoking a legal override, or bringing in new legislation to give the provincial government power over zoning restrictions.

By saying No to such nonsense, Abbotsford council may help to shine a light on the real problem of a lack of foresight and planning to provide rehab facilities to get the junkies off crack cocaine or crystal meth or heroin, instead of supplying it, or at least not enforcing the laws against them.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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