The City of Abbotsford will have to answer to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after allegations its anti-harm reduction bylaw discriminates against drug users.
Abbotsford amended its zoning in 2005 to block access to facilities such as sterile needle exchanges and supervised injection sites.
Barry Shantz with the B.C.-Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, the group behind the human rights complaint, says the city acted outside its jurisdiction and violated the Charter rights of drug users.
“Drug users are consistently facing stigma and discrimination in Abbotsford,” he said.
“The tribunal’s acceptance of our complaint and Drug War Survivors as representatives for the marginalized and vulnerable is a good first step in giving us some dignity back.”
Shantz argues drug addiction should be treated as a medical issue, not a criminal one.
“This is a confidence-builder,” he said.
“All of the scientific evidence supports harm reduction. The most studied medical facility on the planet is InSite [Vancouver’s supervised injection site]. Double thumbs up from any research and study that ever happens here. So we are cranking up the heat.”
The Fraser Health Authority has a harm reduction plan for Abbotsford, but has been unwilling to implement it while the city's bylaw stands.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is expected to hear the complaint early next year.
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