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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Amid ongoing conversations in the community on the proposed safe injection site, the local chamber of commerce has released some recommendations for the site.
The Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce’s suggestions to Northern Health include security, robust lighting and a “Good Neighbours” group.
The site’s location at 10067 100th Avenue was announced via a letter from Northern Health’s COO Angela De Smit on November 28th, 2022.
Northern Health was looking for a new location since April 2022, when Northern Health lost its temporary use permit.
Since the letter was released, the City of Fort St. John has expressed that it stands behind the site.
The chamber board decided to weigh in because of the potential change to the downtown core, said Kathleen Connolly, the chambers’ CEO.
“The conversation really was around, we understand that we don’t have a voice in terms of location, but we certainly can have a voice and represent our members around how we create a safe space for everyone in the community to move through,” Connolly said.
The suggestions are a result of conversations between business owners and those directly impacted by the location, according to Connolly.
The chamber recommended the formation of a “Good Neighbors” group consisting of Northern Health representation, businesses in the area and other services groups to ensure best practices are being met and complaints, concerns or issues can be discussed. They propose meetings to be held monthly for the first three months and then quarterly.
Connolly said she did something similar when she was the chamber CEO in Dawson Creek.
“It would be Northern Health, it would be the city, it would be the chamber, it would be businesses and residents in the area who wanted to have a place to have conversations,” Connolly explained.
She called it a “direct ear” to Northern Health so they can mitigate and mediate as needed.
Another recommendation is a 24-hour contact number for business owners and residents to be shared should an incident arise.
The chamber also believes robust lighting and additional garbage cans or containers should be provided in the area.
Another suggestion made is education and engagement with businesses in the area, including the opportunity to complete Naloxone training at no cost.
A security plan for at least the first 90 days and possibly longer if necessary was also mentioned by the chamber.
It is up to Northern Health to decide on following through with any of the chamber’s recommendations, but Connolly says the chamber board would be active participants in conversations.
The board also acknowledged that Northern Health has been mandated to provide safe injection sites within Fort St. John without the necessity to seek approvals from the local government or nearby businesses.
“We acknowledge that it’s going there. We accept that, but let’s just make sure that we create something that’s a safe space for everybody,” Connolly said.
Connolly added that if businesses have concerns and want to speak to somebody about the site, to contact her at the Chamber of Commerce via email at [email protected] or by phone at 250-785-6037.
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