Activists in Maple Ridge are furious that the RCMP was called in to break up a pop-up overdose prevention site (OPS) on the property of a modular housing development Wednesday.
The group Alliance Against Displacement had set the site up at 22548 Royal Cres. as a part of a call for the establishment of a formal supervised consumption site in the city.
Organizer Ivan Drury said volunteers had been running their own overdose prevention site in the Anita Place homeless camp for two years but that it has since been shut down by the city.
“Maple Ridge lost its only supervised or community-supervised consumption side or overdose prevention site,” he said.
“The city council and Mayor Mike Morton are responsible for stripping the drug user community, at their only sanctuary, from the danger of the overdose crisis, and that provincial government is responsible for not following its own mandate and providing a overdose prevention site that people can access.”
Activists say Fraser Health has pledged to set up some kind of consumption site, and that the agency must act.
Ridge Meadows RCMP went to the site, and Drury said officers told activists they could face charges of mischief if they didn’t shut the camp down.
Ridge Meadows RCMP Sgt. Brenda Gresiuk said police were on site at the request of BC Housing, and were there to “keep the peace.”
“When we have a complainant and they no longer would like people on their property, that’s where we negotiate and there are consequences if you choose to continue to stay someone’s property,” she said.
“So we do explain all options to participants like stay leave. What do you want what’s your objectives for this and they came to their own conclusions.”
After several tense hours, the tent was removed by demonstrators.
In a statement, BC Housing said it recognized the need for overdose prevention sites but that it could not support an unsanctioned OPS on the property of its supportive housing.
“We are dedicated to providing safe and secure housing for those in need, and provide support services to those living in modular supportive housing,” reads the statement.
“We also take our commitment to neighbours and the community seriously, which is why we can’t allow this site to operate here.”
WATCH: ‘Evidence is clear’ that overdose prevention sites save lives: B.C.
BC Housing confirmed that it had asked the RCMP to “request protesters leave the Royal Crescent site” and said no one was arrested.
According to Drury, if anyone had been arrested, it would have been a Canadian first for police at an overdose prevention site.
“It was a surprise, especially given that in British Columbia, there’s a ministerial order from … 2016 giving licence to community partners to set up to OPS as necessary response to the overdose,” he said.
Fraser Health says residents of the Royal Crescent temporary modular housing project and Alouette Heights supportive housing can already access overdose prevention services at the facilities.
“Others who use drugs can access overdose prevention services, including witnessed consumption, through outreach services provided by Rain City,” or the Salvation Army’s Ridge Meadows shelter, said Fraser Health.