A resident stumbled upon needles left in a secluded area near Parksville’s recycling depot in May of 2019. – File photo

Medical health officer pans Parksville push limit needle access

Hasselback says bylaw could limit access to lifesaving services

Parksville city council’s proposed bylaw to regulate the distribution of hypodermic needles has been met with criticism from the medical health officer for central Vancouver Island.

Dr. Paul Hasselback’s letter to council, dated Oct. 8, 2019 and included in the council agenda for the Nov. 4 meeting, outlines a number of issues in the bylaw, which passed first and second reading on July 3, 2019.

Some of these issues include, according to Hasselback, potential contravention of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as possibly opening up issues of discrimination under the B.C. Human Rights Code.

Hasselback recommends council seek legal advice before attempting to pass the bylaw in its current form.

READ MORE: Parksville council advances proposed bylaw to regulate distribution of needles

“The Supreme Court has ruled that efforts to limit access to the management of ‘addictions’ are subject to review under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms… The application of the B.C. Human Rights Code may be an issue of concern for the implementation of the bylaw as written should any individual perceive that they are adversely impacted in their access to a service,” said Hasselback in the letter.

“In summary, the bylaw has the potential to negatively impact the health of individuals and residents of Parksville. It does so though limiting access to services known to be lifesaving and health protecting.”

Any municipal bylaw impacting health services in B.C. must be first approved by the Ministry of Health. If council decides to proceed, they would need to wait on provincial approval before implementing any changes related to the distribution of the needles.

The bylaw as read on July 3 would see the distribution of harm-reduction supplies (defined in the Nov. 4 agenda as “needles which are associated with the use of illegal substances…”) restricted to authorized distributors, who would need to be registered with the city. It would also require distribution of needles from municipally owned property, such as 222 Corfield, to be authorized specifically by council.

It would require all needles distributed to be retractable or needle-less, have labels citing their source, and require organizations to track individuals to ensure that they have returned all used needles to appropriate containers before getting more.

READ MORE: Parksville man finds used needles in area near elementary school

“In British Columbia, the distribution of needles and syringes, and certain other harm-reduction supplies is to assist in the prevention of bloodborne illnesses such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C,” said Hasselback in the letter.

“Knowingly acting in a fashion which may cause harm has the potential to place the Council of the City of Parksville in a liability exposure which should be referred to their insurer.”

He also states that limiting supply of needles is in conflict with provincial policy and national guidelines.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s information sheet “Harm Reduction Best Practices – Needle Distribution” says the practice of requiring “one-for-one” needle exchange is “outdated.”

“Evidence shows that limiting the number of needles distributed increases the likelihood of people sharing or re-using needles, and thus increases the risk of HIV, HBV, HCV and other infections,” reads the release.

READ MORE: Parksville mayor aims to look at bylaw regulating needle distribution within the city

Council has several options, as outlined in chief administrative officer Keeva Kehler’s report to council dated Oct. 24.

Kehler’s recommendation is that council receive the report for information. In that case, the bylaw will remain at second reading until council provides further direction.

The other options are to submit the bylaw to the Minister of Health for consideration of approval, continue consultation with Hasselback and make amendments prior to submission, or provide alternative direction to staff.

emily.vance@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Just Posted

UPDATE with VIDEO: Daughter calls for animal safety measures after fatal elk collision

“Safety studies and improvements to Highway 18 are vitally important”

TSB investigating the grounding of Nana Provider on Quadra

‘This was a wake-up call to the people on the inside passage,’ says area director

Tim Hortons drive-thru rejects mom and kids on bicycle

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

‘Our culture is not a religion,’ Indigenous educator tells Nanaimo court in case of smudging at school

Mother also gave evidence Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, case continues Wednesday

Courtenay “geovangelist” teacher wins prestigious national award

Andrew Young won the 2019 Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy

B.C. politicians view supermodel’s transition journey on Transgender Day

Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite and New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert appear in the documentary

New school name proposals unveiled for Alberni, Ucluelet

Board of education suggests new names, asks for public feedback

Tofino Bus closes bus depot in Port Alberni

Island-wide bus service switching to curbside pickup, drop-off, says parent company

Denman ferry cable to be replaced with plastic cable – for now

The first flattened steel strand cable is expected to be installed late summer 2020

Cyclist hit and seriously injured on TCH in Duncan Friday

Initial findings are that the cyclist rode across four lanes of traffic on the TCH

Witness sought after man found unconscious after altercation in downtown Courtenay

Police say this is not believed to be a random incident.

BC Ferries’ two new hybrid vessels set sail for B.C. from Romania

Two Island Class ferries to be in use by 2020

John Mann, singer and songwriter of group Spirit of the West dead at 57

Mann died peacefully in Vancouver on Wednesday from early onset Alzheimer’s

Most Read