School trustees to draft letter to Northern health on safe injection site

A few residents provided feedback to trustees on the overdose prevention site being set up in Fort St. John during a school board meeting on Monday.

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Northern Health has signed a long-term lease agreement for the property located at 10067 – 100 Avenue.
The location of Northern Health’s proposed overdose prevention site. (Shailynn Foster,

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A few residents provided concerns to trustees on Northern Health’s plans for a safe injection site in Fort St. John during a school board meeting on Monday.

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.

One of the main topics of conversation was the site’s location, which is a couple of blocks away from École Central Elementary and near a couple of daycares.

School District 60 Trustee Tom Whitton said he felt there was a communication breakdown between the district and Northern Health and suggested drafting a letter about the potential issue.

“Not necessarily even where [the OPS site is] located, that they should consider the feedback from this governing body when choosing a site that could potentially increase the risk for our children,” Whitton said.

Whitton also asked how the board educates students about drug overdose prevention.

“Because that’s what we’re here about. We’re here for our children. I appreciate that Northern Health has a mandate. They have rules they need to follow, but we’re here for the kids, and we need to make sure that they’re protected first and foremost.”

Whitton also inquired about whether other districts went through a similar change and if there was an increase or decrease in paraphernalia around the schools.

One attendee sitting in the meeting asked that the letter also mention the nearby daycares and the North Peace Cultural Centre.

“It seems like a massive oversight that they would just completely not even take into account the demographic surrounding,” they said.

Another member of the public suggested joining groups together to “get it shut down” to “save our children.”

“I don’t think that’s too much to ask from the government, to stay out of our lives and save our children from them,” they said.

Another community member mentioned how the cannabis stores had to be a certain distance away from the schools.

“I’m wondering if that was taken into consideration when they have forced a safe injection site into the community,” the resident said.

A woman who attended the meeting also raised concerns about the number of people served at the site.

“I would like there to be no safe injection site, but the reality is there’s going to be one, and so it’s super important to know what we’re getting into,” she said.

According to chair Helen Gilbert, the board is committed to writing a letter to Northern Health and will look at drafting one in April.

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 noted the need for wraparound harm reduction services in the community but has not expressed support for the proposed location for the overdose prevention site.

Northeast BC reported 26 illicit drug overdoses in 2022, according to a BC Coroners Service report.

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