August 8, 2017 9:56 am

Vancouver city councillor clarifies comments about rounding-up drug users for treatment

Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson returned from Sochi on Sunday night.

Global News

A Vancouver city councillor is denying he supported the idea of rounding-up drug users to place them in treatment centres.

Tim Stevenson told council in late July he was in Thailand several years ago where the army rounded-up “people who were addicted” and placed them in trucks for rural treatment centres.

That comment has irked activists in the Downtown Eastside, including Karen Ward from the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users.

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Ward says comments like that from a sitting councillor add to the stigma that hinders people from seeking treatment.

READ MORE: Inside St. Paul’s ER: The front line of B.C.’s overdose crisis

“The idea that a city councillor would suggest that an appropriate remedy would involve ‘let’s speak about what they did in Thailand when they went out with the military and rounded up everybody in trucks’… was shocking to me,” says Ward. “[P]eople spoke to me afterwards that everybody else in the room…was, I don’t know what that was.'”

“They [were] disturbed by how incredibly casual and callous that was, all the different ways in which these scares and crises have stigmatized so many people.”

But Stevenson says he was commenting on the treatment centres and wasn’t advocating picking-up drug users from the streets.

“In light of the fact I could have told the story without that, I could’ve just talked about the Buddhist retreat centre that we encountered, and the kind of work that they were doing there,” he says.

READ MORE: ‘You can not solve a problem by ignoring it’: Grand Chief Doug Kelly on B.C.’s overdose crisis

Stevenson adds these kinds of actions would be an abuse of human rights.

“Absolutely, if people are taking offence to that and don’t feel that I… I wasn’t at all trying to be insensitive to anyone, I was just relating a story that had happened to me as leading a delegation to another country a number of years ago.”

Stevenson says he would “absolutely not” want to see drug users forcibly removed.

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