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February 26, 2020, 9:36 am

Cowichan Leadership Group Seeks Support from Provincial Government

Municipality of North Cowichan

COWICHAN VALLEY - The Cowichan Leadership Group is asking the provincial government for urgent funding and support for escalating addictions and housing challenges.

The Cowichan Leadership Group has written to 10 separate provincial ministries, outlining the escalating problems in the Cowichan Valley that are arising from substance use and homelessness, and the associated increase in crime and pressure Cowichan’s public safety. They have requested urgent meetings with each of these ministers to see how their ministry can support our community’s need to fund solutions in treatment, housing, and safety.

In October 2019, the Cowichan Leadership Group invited Minister Judy Darcy to visit the Cowichan Valley, specifically the area along the highway encompassing the school board office, Warmland Shelter, Corridor Safety Office, and Cowichan Tribes Kwun’atsustul Mental Health.

During that visit, service providers outlined their concerns for the safety and wellbeing of Cowichan residents and those living on the street, and community advocates presented a proposal to Minister Darcy to fund temporary treatment facilities and a safe drug supply pilot in Cowichan. This proposal was denied.

The Cowichan Leadership Group formed in response to increasing need for leaders from different levels of government and organizations in the community to coordinate actions and communications on cross-jurisdictional issues. The group was established in June 2019. The group includes:

  • William Seymour, Chief, Cowichan Tribes
  • Michelle Staples, Mayor, City of Duncan
  • Al Siebring, Mayor, Municipality of North Cowichan
  • Rod Peters, Mayor, Lake Cowichan
  • Aaron Stone, Chair, Cowichan Valley Regional District
  • Sonia Fursteneau, MLA
  • Alistair MacGregor, MP
  • Candace Spilsbury, Chair, School District 79 School Board
  • Dr. Shannon Waters, Medical Health Officer, Island Health
  • Inspector Chris Bear, North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP

Quotes:
Mayor Michelle Staples:
“We are a community in crisis, I’m fairly positive this is the obvious and something we can all agree on. This is our community, we all belong here, while we appreciate and support the prevention services the province is working on, we are in a community in crisis. Prevention is great to build for our future, but we need a response that addresses the reality of our current situation. This will take all of us working together, accepting solutions, taking the time to learn and understand. We can not afford to let this divide us, our only way through it is working together.”

Mayor Al Siebring:
“Our addictions/mental health/homelessness problems cannot be fixed by simply adding more housing to the mix. I have long said that while housing is a critical component moving forward, it must be accompanied by the social support services needed to address these problems in a comprehensive way. Providing more housing in isolation of those support services won’t fix anything. That’s why we need multiple provincial ministries and agencies to get out of their silos, come to the table, and create a truly holistic solution to these deep-rooted problems.”

SD79 Board Chair Candace Spilsbury:
“Children, youth, and families in our school communities are feeling tension and struggles around them; tension and struggles caused by the health and social foundation of our community being un-well. Our students are seeing and hearing about drug injections and deaths by overdose or crime. They find needles on our playgrounds, school grounds and parks, and see the effects of rampant homelessness on our streets and around our schools. They also experience crimes of property theft and vandalism. I know the anger and frustration of our parents, businesses, and citizens who feel unsafe and hopeless. Our community is in crisis and we need your support.”

MLA Sonia Furstenau:
“Our service providers are no longer able to maintain a service level that can keep up with the escalating issues arising from substance abuse and homelessness. All of us — all levels of government, community organizations, and residents — need to act on solutions together so that our service providers, business owners, residents, and those most vulnerable to addictions can find a good way forward.”

For more information:
Al Siebring, Mayor
Mayor@northcowichan.ca
2
50.746.3117

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