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Winnipeg acts on task force’s recommendations on Manitoba’s meth crisis

File: A criminal expert shows Crystal  meth at the German federal police in Wiesbaden, Germany.
File: A criminal expert shows Crystal meth at the German federal police in Wiesbaden, Germany. AP Photo/Michael Probst

The City of Winnipeg is acting on the findings of the Illicit Drugs Task Force by conducting several reviews into the issues meth use is causing across the city.

On Tuesday, the mayor’s executive policy committee voted in favour of reviewing current zoning restrictions to allow safe injection, drug treatment and recovery centres in neighbourhoods where they currently aren’t allowed.

The task force’s report, released Friday, included 24 recommendations and was the result of more than six months of work.

The task force included provincial, federal and municipal leaders looking into how to respond to the rapid increase in meth use and distribution across the province.

READ MORE: ‘No consensus’ around safe injection site, says Manitoba meth task force member

“If you look at how bad the meth crisis is right now, I don’t think we can afford to wait until after the [federal] or provincial elections,” said mayor Brian Bowman at a press conference following the vote.
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Members of EPC also voted in favour of reviewing the city’s legislative authority to require scrap metal dealers to demand sellers show identification, a move Bowman hopes will help curb bicycle theft in the city.

Bikes can be a prime target for users because their parts can be stripped down, taken to a scrap metal yard and sold for cash.

“If someone is selling a stolen bike in order to feed and fuel the meth crisis then I want to see that shut down,” said Bowman.

The city will also consider increasing bylaw enforcement to address vacant and derelict buildings that are being used to buy and consume meth, as well as public awareness campaigns to educate residents and landlords on how to spot problem areas.

READ MORE: Manitoba task force looking into meth and other drugs to release report this week

Local crime prevention groups could also see more funding from the city out of the review — and that’s good news, says Crime Stoppers chairperson Paul Johnson.

“We’re trying to provide a method for [community members] to empower them to do something to help their community … they’re the ones whose kids are walking by this,” Johnson told 680CJOB.
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“I think there’s definitely something we can do to deal with this issue.”

The task force’s report faced criticism when it was released last week because it did not include a recommendation about safe-injection sites. That’s because members could not agree on the topic, said City of Winnipeg Chief Corporate Support Services Officer Michael Jack, who sat on the force.

Winnipeg has struggled with the sheer number of needles found on the ground throughout the city, from parks to school grounds to back alleys.

WATCH: Meth violence only getting worse in Winnipeg

Meth violence only getting worse in Winnipeg
Meth violence only getting worse in Winnipeg

The Bear Clan said earlier this year that they picked up 20,000 used needles in the first three months of 2019.

When the report was first released, Bowman said he planned to seek clarity from the province about the regulatory requirements around establishing safe injection sites, but he now says he’ll leave that decision in the hands of the provincial officials, for the time being.

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“There’s obviously more debate and dialogue that has to happen at the provincial level,” he said.

“I just don’t want to be an impediment when and if the province decides to proceed, from the city’s perspective.”

The city will spend the next 60 days conducting the reviews.