SIMON NATTRASS: Restrictive policies continue to risk lives

In the distant memory of 1999, Judge Thomas Gove ruled that Victoria’s “Red Zone” policy violates Charter Rights..

In the distant memory of 1999, Judge Thomas Gove ruled that Victoria’s “Red Zone” policy prevented people from “carrying out normal social interaction with their peers” and accessing health services, violating their Charter Rights. Lawyers involved in the case prophesied doom for the practice of banning people from the Red Zone, an area bounded by Cook, Store, Belleville and Discovery streets. Surely, any policy which couldn’t survive a constitutional challenge was destined to fail.

It was almost a surprise when I was reminded by a local social service provider that members of The Capital’s street community continue to face exile from our downtown. Nor is this fate reserved for a few habitual trouble-makers — at least two recent operations carried out by the Victoria police resulted in many of those arrested being banned from the Red Zone.  Judges regularly choose exile as punishment for drug-related offences. The Vancouver Island Health Authority also enforces a semi-official no-go zone for the distribution of harm-reduction services. The zone encompasses a two-block radius around St. Andrew’s School — notably including the 900 block of Pandora — and prevents several organizations from distributing supplies such as clean needles within its borders.

VIHA’s no-go zone has serious implications for public health. According to a 2010 study by the Centre for Addictions Research BC, the policy resulted in a “substantial reduction in the level of health service delivery provided by AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) and of clean needles, and has impacted their ability to meet the provincial policy of providing drug users with one clean needle for every injection.”

Like the Streets and Traffic Bylaw that prevents the street community from resting their bodies on Pandora Green, Red Zones and no-go zones do much more than force visible poverty out of the downtown core and into neighbourhoods. Policies that limit free movement and restrict access to social services only serve to deepen the impact of The Capital’s failure to secure a fixed-site needle exchange and safe-injection site.

Continuing to embrace the wildly anachronistic idea of exile as a form of punishment presents addicts and other street-involved people with an impossible choice: risk arrest in order to obtain food, shelter and clean needles, or risk your life to comply with a court order. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scaredy Cats television series has turned Empress Avenue in Fernwood into a Halloween themed neighbourhood. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Trick or treat! Halloween comes to Fernwood in January

New television series Scaredy Cats filming in Victoria

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Braden Holtby’s new mask designed in collaboration with Luke Marston and David Gunnarsson. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
Vancouver Island Coast Salish artist unveils new mask for Canucks goalie

Braden Holtby’s new mask features artwork by Luke Marston inspired by the legend of the seawolf

Comox-based cinematographer Maxwel Hohn’s new documentary captures the lives of Vancouver Island’s coastal wolves. Photo courtesy Maxwel Hohn.
New mini-documentary shot on Vancouver Island echoes the ‘call of the coastal wolves’

Photography heavyweights from B.C. come together for Maxwel Hohn’s second wildlife documentary

The 2021 Victoria Film Festival includes Vancouver Island produced feature film All-in Madonna. The festival looks a bit different this year, but film-lovers can still expect a full and diverse lineup. (Courtesy of VFF)
Victoria Film Festival returns with virtual viewing

Lineup features 50 films including Vancouver Island-produced All-in Madonna

Dr. John Hooper is the new conductor of Island Voices. Photo supplied
Island Voices welcomes new conductor

Dr. John Hooper to lead mid-Island based choir

Jorie Benjamin does a modern dance performance to ‘La Vie en rose’ by Édith Piaf, Louis Gugliemi and Marguerite Monnot, choreographed by Elise Sampson during the Cowichan Music Festival’s Highlights Concert at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on March 1, 2020. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Music Festival cancelled for 2021

The festival had already been limited to solo performances only for 2021

<em>Chinook Salmon: Breaking Through</em> by B.C.’s Mark Hobson was selected among 13 entries as the winner of the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Stamp Competition.
Stained-glass lighting casts a win to B.C. salmon artist

Painting of chinook is Mark Hobson’s third win in annual contest

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”. The natural photo art for the album includes Vancouver Island mountains, rivers and beaches. Scenes from the Cowichan River, Witchcraft Lake, Pipers Lagoon, Wall Beach and other popular Island recreation destinations accentuate the album. (RICHIErichieRichie Music Publishing photo)
Serenity Now! Richie Valley debuts third LP dubbed Apollonian

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”

Victoria artist Noah Layne is conducting online workshops on portrait drawing as part of the Metchosin ArtPod’s About Face portrait show. (Photo courtesy of Noah Layne)
Metchosin Art Pod doing an about-face

Renowned artist Noah Layne hosting online classes in portrait drawing

This weekend Amy Pye is holding a virtual book launch for her latest children’s book, <em>Bruce the Silly Goose</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Victoria writer and illustrator pens children’s book about COVID-19 safety

Amy Pye to hold online book launch for ‘Bruce the Silly Goose’

The pantomime ‘Snow White and the 5 Dwarfs’ has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Submitted)
Pantomime cancelled in Cowichan due to COVID restrictions

A partnership of the Cowichan Musical Society, the Shawnigan Players, and the Mercury Players.

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Work on Hornby Island Arts Centre to start this month

Community worked with award-winning architectural firm on design

Most Read