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Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon rebukes Campbell River council’s ‘attack’ on art gallery, overdose prevention site

Campbell River council voted to revoke the tax exemption from the Campbell River Artwork Gallery and the non-profit group that runs an overdose prevention web site due to the crime and road dysfunction surrounding the 2 areas.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon scolded Campbell River council for its “assault” on the town’s artwork gallery and overdose prevention web site, which face monetary penalties after being labelled “poor neighbours.”

Campbell River council voted Thursday evening to revoke the permissive tax exemption from the Campbell River Artwork Gallery and the non-profit group that runs an overdose prevention web site due to the homelessness, crime and road dysfunction surrounding the 2 areas.

Requested in regards to the situation throughout a information convention about homelessness in Kelowna, Kahlon was vital of the town’s actions.

“This isn’t straightforward work to go in and help people who find themselves very weak, who’re struggling,” he stated, talking forward of the ultimate vote Thursday. “And to have a metropolis assault folks as a result of they’re attempting to do their greatest to verify persons are housed just isn’t the way in which you handle this.”

The artwork gallery’s govt director, Sara Lopez Assu, informed Postmedia Information by e-mail that despite the fact that the artwork gallery misplaced its tax exemption, there have been “constructive outcomes” together with councillors’ openness to utilizing the town’s contingency fund to cowl the tax invoice of about $10,000.

Lopez Assu didn’t handle council earlier than the ultimate vote on Thursday however stated the 400 letters in help of the gallery’s tax exemption spoke volumes.

Coun. Ron Kerr first raised the difficulty of eradicating tax exemptions for the 2 non-profits throughout a Sept. 28 council assembly. He stated the Campbell River Artwork Gallery and the Vancouver Island Psychological Well being Society, which runs the overdose prevention web site on Dogwood Road, are “working in a poor neighbourly method and are having important destructive results on our downtown neighborhood.”

The artwork gallery, positioned subsequent to a public plaza known as Spirit Sq. in Campbell River’s downtown, has lengthy been a gathering and tenting spot for folks with out houses. The artwork gallery gives a weekly artwork program for folks fighting homelessness, habit or mental-health points.

Kerr stated offering tax exemptions could be “rewarding poor behaviour and poor neighbourhood conduct.”

Postmedia reached out to Kerr and Mayor Kermit Dahl however didn’t hear again earlier than deadline.

Coun. Ben Lanyon stated in the course of the September council assembly that the artwork gallery employees has proven a “normal angle in favour of permitting tenting within the awnings on city-owned property.”

In an Oct. 11 letter to council, Lopez Assu stated the artwork gallery “can not police the outside of the constructing, particularly after hours, to make sure there aren’t any bylaw violations occurring.”

“The individuals who, for many years, have gathered and slept across the Centennial Constructing and neighbouring areas downtown achieve this on their very own volition. Not by our invitation … When it comes to characterizing us as ‘dangerous neighbours’, we consider the neighborhood has spoken. A testomony to the companies we offer, barrier free, judgment free, to everybody who walks via our doorways.”

Kahlon stated he met with Campbell River politicians in the course of the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ convention on the finish of September and warranted them the town is in line for supportive housing funding.

“I stated I’d work with them to do this. However attacking people who find themselves attempting to be good neighbours and attempting to deal with that problem in the neighborhood just isn’t the way in which to go about it,” he stated.

The end result, Kahlon stated, is that the town might discover it tough to seek out non-profits to function any future supportive housing tasks “as a result of they really feel they’re being vilified for doing the work that they do.”

Kahlon stated Campbell River council ought to work with the neighborhood companions to seek out options.

The controversy sparked a flood of letters to Campbell River council, many in help of the artwork gallery and its social applications, and others from neighbours and enterprise homeowners pissed off by rising crime and social dysfunction outdoors each the gallery and the overdose prevention web site.

A letter from the proprietor of the Dairy Queen on Dogwood Road, half a block away from the overdose prevention web site, described a continuing barrage of violent crime together with threats to employees and aggressive behaviour from folks armed with stolen Tasers, sawed-off shotguns and knives. The proprietor stated he’s needed to rent non-public safety and set up a barrier in entrance of the toilet to forestall folks from utilizing medicine inside.

Council’s supply to make use of contingency funds to cowl taxes wasn’t prolonged to the Vancouver Island Psychological Well being Society.

Taryn O’Flanagan, the society’s govt director, stated council’s determination is “fairly disheartening.”

The overdose prevention web site, which has been open since 2020, sees between 500 and 600 visits per week.

The misplaced tax exemption will price the society a further $17,000 subsequent yr, O’Flanagan stated.

“It’s important,” she stated.

The society will fundraise to make up the shortfall, O’Flanagan stated, and pledged to maintain the doorways open.

B.C. Premier David Eby stated the objective of the provincial laws is for individuals who use medicine to show to overdose prevention websites, however O’Flanagan stated a majority of Campbell River councillors have made it clear they consider the location is a “nuisance property.”

“It’s very complicated to us what the answer is transferring ahead,” she stated.

As for the complaints from neighbouring companies about out-of-control crime, O’Flanagan stated hurt discount employees at all times remind shoppers to be respectful after they’re within the neighbourhood.

“However on the finish of the day, we’re additionally not regulation enforcement,” she stated. “And we don’t work outdoors of the power. So what occurs off-site and different areas of city isn’t essentially our duty. Our duty is to offer overdose prevention companies at that location.”


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