Skip to content

Kamloops councillor candidates on street-related issues

During the civic election campaign, KTW has identified four issues and is asking groups of councillor candidates — chosen randomly — about each issue
Greyhound shelter2
The former Greyhound bus depot at Notre Dame Drive and Laval Crescent in Southgate is now a shelter for the homeless and will remain as such until March 2023.

During the civic election campaign, KTW has identified four issues and is asking groups of councillor candidates about them. This is the first of a four-part series, with the remaining three issues to be addressed by other, randomly chosen groups of councillor candidates.

The street-related issues concerning safety, both of those on the street and of those not on the street, has been the main topic this election campaign. What can council do (that it is not doing now) to improve the situation?

• Caroline King: King said she wants to change the conversation at council, which she said is one-sided, toward housing-first and looking to other levels of government.

“I am a firm believer that it’s an inherent right to have a roof over our heads and a warm meal in our bellies, but, you know, being homeless and drug addicted does not preclude you from following basic rules of society and we have to find ways where we can all live together, where we can support the people we love and the people we care about, but we can also support our businesses and our communities, our neighbourhoods. And what we’re doing right now is so one-sided and so off-skewed that we’re just, we’re digging ourselves deeper every day.”

King said Kamloops was the only city to disband its bylaws department during the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of a crime wave. She said other cities chose to increase bylaw divisions by adding higher-level and better trained community services officers to existing bylaws officers. She said it alleviated street issues and took pressure off the RCMP.

• Darrell LaRiviere: “I think the main issue is they keep on voting against things that can fix things because they believe it’s someone else’s responsibility,” he said.

LaRiviere said it bothers him when council points to the provincial or federal governments and then nothing happens. He said he would have voted in favour of Coun. Denis Walsh’s proposed feasibility study for a recovery centre.

• Mike O’Reilly: “The City of Kamloops does not operate any homeless shelters or social housing projects and, obviously, this is a mental-health crisis.

“I fundamentally believe that your municipal tax dollars should not be paying for health care. There are some short-term solutions that the province can implement that a new council can push for to try and ease some of the criminality that’s associated with the homelessness. Specifically, the city can work with the province to create a buffer zone between residential neighbourhoods and shelters.”

O’Reilly explained it would mean requiring a shelter be a certain number of metres from homes and neighbourhoods.

“There isn’t any residential neighbourhood that I know of that has a shelter located next door to them that doesn’t have an issue with crime,” he said. “We need to have that separation and a buffer area.”

O’Reilly said the province also needs to increase mental-health supports and provide complex care to get the 20 worst offenders off of city streets. O’Reilly said he will be pushing for involuntary treatment for repeat overdose patients.

• Jordan Proctor: “One of the things that I’d like to see is the city regaining more input and control over how these things are being dealt with. As of right now, due to paramountcy, we have very limited handle on how the NPOs (non-profit organizations) and stuff operate in managing these affairs.

“I just feel it’s quite clear, based on the fact half of the board of BC Housing basically got fired and the CEO retired, something’s not going right. I think the short answer is something needs to be done and the evidence is quite clear that what we’re currently doing is not working.

“All we’ve seen in the past few years is just a steady escalation of homelessness and property crime. I would like to see a more stringent application of civic bylaws on these organizations that manage these services.”

Proctor also suggested advocating for safe supply of drugs, noting organized crime flourished during the prohibition of alcohol last century.

• Bill Sarai: Sarai said he has been pushing for more RCMP officers on the streets.

“Especially after the Jamaican Kitchen incident, where one of the comments was, ‘We own the streets.’ That really bothered me and wasn’t what we’re about and I thought having RCMP, more boots on the ground on a regular rotation, would and still could make a big difference,” he said.

Sarai said Car 40 (a program that pairs a Mounties with a nurse for mental health-related calls) resources should also be enhanced and he criticized Interior Health for providing limited nursing resources.

“They need to be at the table,” he said. “This is a health issue.”

Sarai said street issues are complex, noting no one initiative will be a solution. He also noted he was to speak with the province during this week’s Union of BC Municipalities convention about shelters and a mental-health court.

• Darpan Sharma: Sharma said council has been lobbying the province, similar to other municipalities, but it is not working.

“It’s the definition of insanity. You keep doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result,” he said.

Sharma said his plan would be to lobby with council in the first six months, then look at fining nuisance properties, including social agencies and hotels hosting their clients.

He also wants to look at zoning and invoke rules that prohibit people from living in hotels. He said the city can withhold funding and utilize its good neighbour bylaw.

Sharma also wants to increase competition amongst social agencies that have contracts with BC Housing, calling it a “monopoly” in Kamloops. Sharma said the city has to be an equal stakeholder in decisions on shelter locations.

“At the end of the day, we are the ones living in Kamloops. They’re not. It’s just another city to them,” he said.

Sharma said the city needs two departments — bylaws and community service — and questioned the city’s decision to disband the department during the pandemic. Sharma also advocated for recovery services and so-called “dry” facilities.