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Hansard Blues

Legislative Assembly

Draft Report of Debates

The Honourable Raj Chouhan, Speaker

4th Session, 42nd Parliament
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Afternoon Sitting

The House met at 1:35 p.m.

[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]

Routine Business

Prayers and reflections: H. Yao.

Introductions by Members

Hon. M. Farnworth: In the gallery today is a very special person. I first met her in 1988, when she came out to the Tri-Cities, to our area, to be the campaign manager for Ian Waddell, who was running for MP. She had been his constituency assistant.

We formed a great relationship, as I educated her on the Tri-Cities, on the suburbs, and how they were different from Vancouver. I also got to appreciate her skills and her strengths. She earned the nickname, which she still likes to, when she sends me a card…. It was Boss Lady.

She is here in the gallery today, and she is celebrating a very special birthday. It is her 80th birthday.

I would like the House to wish Sharon Olsen, a.k.a. Boss Lady, a very happy birthday.

C. Oakes: Joining us in the gallery today is Joshua Switzer, who is a third-year student at the University of Victoria studying sociology and business. Would the House please make him feel very welcome.

Hon. S. Malcolmson: To follow on the Public Safety Minister's introduction, the daughter of Sharon Olsen is also in the House. Will my colleagues please make my former CA, both federally and provincially, and now my EA in my minister's office, the fantastic Darcy Olsen, feel very welcome.

H. Yao: I just want to take this moment to wish Angela Elliot the happiest 80th birthday. I want to make sure we wish her all the health, prosperity, happiness and longevity ahead. Please join me and wish her a happy birthday.

K. Greene: Today is bring your child to work day. I'm hoping that members in the gallery can remember their temperate language and welcome my son William to the chamber today.

T. Stone: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce my youngest daughter, Caitlin, who is here with us today. In fact, today is go to work with your parents day for her grade 9 class up at Valleyview Secondary. She is hiding.

I've had to appear to be busy today to make sure that she leaves with the correct impression of how hard her dad actually works. Anyway, we've had a great day up to this point. I'm really thrilled that she's here.

When I was elected, she was three years old. This is actually her first time in the chamber to watch us in action and stuff. It's also her 14th birthday in one week today.

Happy birthday, Sweetie. Thank you so much for coming and spending the day with your dad. It's very special.

R. Parmar: I don't think he's going to be watching from home, because he's too busy packing and practising his German.

I wanted to take this opportunity, on behalf of, I think, all of us in this House, to congratulate the former MLA for Langford–Juan de Fuca and the Premier of our province, John Horgan, on his appointment as the next Ambassador of Canada to Germany.

Congratulations, John.

[1:40 p.m.]



I. Paton: I'm wearing my green 4-H tie today, because it's called Show Your Colours Day for 4-H kids. Of course, Ravi, we were the cool kids in high school, us farm kids.

So 4-H is a great historical group that is mostly for farm kids. There's the famous 4-H pledge that we all took as we joined our local 4-H club. Whether you were dairy cattle or beef cattle, there was 4-H for repairing engines and sewing and all sorts of different things.

It goes like this: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands for greater service and my health for better living for my club and community."

Happy 4-H Day, everyone.

Introductions by Members

Hon. A. Kang: In the gallery today is my administrative assistant in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Keziah Britto. Today is her last day that she will be working in my office, and she's moving on to greater endeavours, showing her leadership. Not only has she been instrumental in supporting Municipal Affairs, but she has also become a very dear friend.

Congratulations, Keziah.

Would the House please make her feel very welcome.

Introduction and
First Reading of Bills


Hon. N. Sharma presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Money Judgment Enforcement Consequential Amendment and Transitional Provisions Act.

Hon. N. Sharma: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.

I am pleased to introduce the Money Judgment Enforcement Consequential Amendment and Transitional Provisions Act, 2023.

This bill will amend legislation that will be impacted when Bill 27, the Money Judgment Enforcement Act, which was enacted earlier this session, is brought into force.

This bill, Bill 43, also adds transitional provisions to the Court Order Enforcement Act. The transitional provisions ensure that if a person wishes, writs or garnishing orders a person has obtained under the Court Order Enforcement Act can continue to be used to collect a judgment debt until the writ or garnishing order naturally expires under the act.

Mr. Speaker: Members, the question is first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

Hon. N. Sharma: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for the second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill 43, Money Judgment Enforcement Consequential Amendment and Transitional Provisions Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Hon. R. Kahlon presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023.

Hon. R. Kahlon: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.

I'm pleased to introduce the Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act. This bill will create more homes within reach for people by making it easier to increase the supply of more attainable homes, like triplexes and townhomes, in existing communities.

This bill allows, as a right, four units on larger lots, three units on smaller lots in single detached zones as well as up to six units on areas in close proximity to frequently used bus stops.

Second, it requires local government zoning bylaws to allow a minimum of one secondary suite or detached accessory dwelling unit in a single detached zone across the province.

Third, it makes updates to improve local government housing needs reports to make them more robust, consistent and comparable across communities.

Fourth, it will require municipalities to plan for and accommodate their housing needs and their official community plans and zoning bylaws.

And lastly, it will require local governments to engage communities in development of official community plans, and it eliminates public zoning hearings for projects that are consistent with municipal communities' official plans.

These changes will help streamline the local government development approval process and ensure that more homes can be built in the right places faster.

Mr. Speaker: The question is the first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

Hon. R. Kahlon: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill 44, Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

[1:45 p.m.]

(Standing Order 25B)


K. Chen: I want to begin my statement today by sharing a story about a four-year-old girl who had brown hair, cute little glasses and a beautiful smile. She was a daughter, a big sister and a schoolmate. She was smart and spunky, her mother said. She loved to dress up as a princess. She was bright and sensitive, but she also needed therapy, because she had an abusive father with a history of violence towards her mother, who is a well-respected physician.

One weekend she had no choice but to follow a court order and stay with her father. Sadly, she never made it home to her mother. She was found dead at the base of a cliff. The little girl was Keira Kagan, who was murdered by her father in 2020.

Every year, November is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Canada. But every day there are still women, children, and men, too, who are living in unsafe situations, who need our help right now. You may say, "Call 911," but very few domestic violence reports result in a protection order. Even for sexual assaults, only about 10 percent result in a conviction, and many without jail time.

We all know someone who has been impacted by domestic violence, even though there are so many unreported incidents. Statistics also show that domestic violence has increased significantly year after year, even since before the pandemic. It's an issue that spans every culture, faith, education and income level. It not only impacts a person's mental health and well-being. It can also create generational trauma and affect our society as a whole if we don't take more actions now.

During this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to share the awareness and advocate for better changes, and never, never stay silent if you know anyone who's impacted. Apathy is our biggest enemy.


S. Bond: October 8 to 14 was Fire Prevention Week in Canada, giving us a chance to reflect on the dedication and tireless efforts of professional and volunteer firefighters in our communities and our province. As we continue to grapple with the devastating impact that fires have and will continue to have on people and property, it is important to thank all firefighters for their bravery and the expertise they bring to the difficult and dangerous work that they do on our behalf.

Today I want to celebrate and express my gratitude to someone who has spent decades serving with the McBride and district volunteer fire department. That is Chief Dave Hruby. Chief Dave will be retiring at the end of November, and it is fitting that he was honoured with a special surprise retirement party at the McBride fire hall on October 29.

From all reports, it was a surprise. The fire hall was full of family, friends and colleagues from McBride and other out-of-town fire departments. Of course, there were amazing treats, stories shared and heartfelt thank-yous.

Dave has had an exemplary career of public service. He was awarded one of Canada's highest honours, the federal Fire Services Exemplary Service bar, for his work as a fire chief in McBride. Chief Dave served for 43 years. Under his leadership and careful budgeting, McBride has added several fire service units and increased the focus on training and preparedness.

It's been an honour to get to know Dave and his wife, Rosemary.

Chief Dave, thank you for your dedicated service. As you begin this next chapter of your life, please know how grateful we are for your tireless efforts. We wish you, Rosemary and your entire family many years of good health and much happiness.

Thank you, Chief Dave, for a job very well done.


R. Glumac: It'll start its journey all the way over in Hermon, Maine, on November 21. It's the CP Holiday Train, and from there, it's going to make its way across Canada, making over 190 stops. Twenty of those are in British Columbia in communities like Nelson, Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Kamloops and even Maple Ridge before arriving in Port Moody.

Along the way, it collects donations and food items for local food banks. In fact, since the holiday train began in 1999, it's collected over $22½ million and over five million pounds of food. All these donations that are raised in a community where the train stops remain in that community.

[1:50 p.m.]

This year the Holiday Train will arrive in Port Moody, behind the rec centre, at 5:20 p.m. on December 18. It's an exciting experience to watch that train pull in, lit up and flashing Christmas lights, and the stage door opening up, revealing an amazing band ready to give a free concert to everyone watching.

There are different bands every year and different bands along different legs of the journey. This year in Port Moody, it'll be Juno Award–nominated artist Tyler Shaw and Juno Award–winning artist Kiesza from the Kootenays.

After the performance, you can warm up near a giant bonfire monitored by the local firefighters or check out other activities, including cookie decorating, face painting and maybe even a chance to visit Santa.

I'll see you there — the CP Holiday Train on December 18.


M. Morris: Crime Prevention Week takes place in British Columbia from today through to November 7.

Despite best efforts by businesses and police, crime in our communities has become pervasive. Shoplifting, vandalism, violence and public disorder are driving businesses to consider closing or relocating from traditional retail locations. Crimes are committed with little to no regard for the presence of traditional crime prevention tools like video surveillance and increased visible security staff. Crimes are committed with little to no regard for consequences, because fundamentally, there are none.

The Save Our Streets coalition of businesses and concerned citizens is testament to the extreme frustration businesses face, feeling powerless to stop this disgraceful blight facing our communities. The traditional crime prevention tactics used by police, citizens and businesses are ineffective, as our society faces an era of prescribed immunity, an era that appears to excuse or ignore crimes committed by individuals who suffer from addictions, mental health challenges or other causal factors.

This era did not arrive overnight but has taken years to manifest in our communities. Over the years, police have become the default to address dysfunctional social disorder, channelling individuals into a justice system that is ill-equipped to address addictions and mental illness. Police agencies across our province are overwhelmed and powerless to address these crimes. So too are our courts, which recognize that mental illness and addictions cannot be processed through a justice system.

We need a crime prevention strategy that focuses aggressively on treatment and recovery for persons suffering from addictions. One that focuses on compassionate, readily available mental health treatment facilities across the province. One that will significantly reduce the incidence of shoplifting, vandalism, violence and public disorder. One where police will be able to focus on criminals and traditional crime prevention initiatives. One where the administration of justice can focus on prosecuting criminals who have fostered this disorder through trafficking in drugs and organized criminal behaviour.

Most importantly, suffering British Columbians will get the help they need to survive, ensuring that they thrive in life rather than contributing to the chaos that we see today on our streets.


M. Dykeman: It is a privilege to rise in the House today on Show Your 4-H Colours Day. It is an extra special celebration today, as it is the 110th anniversary of 4-H in Canada. Members, leaders and supporters from coast to coast are proudly showing their colours by wearing green, to celebrate the values and achievements of 4-H in Canada.

4-H has been making a difference since 1913. A youth organization for youth aged six to 21 years, it focuses on building leadership and life skills that equip youth with the tools they need to reach their full potential and be conscientious, contributing citizens. 4-H's focus on leadership, communication skills and fostering deep community roots is seen in their impressive list of 4-H alumni, which includes community leaders, advocates, Olympians, CEOs and parliamentarians.

One of the largest youth organizations, whose roots started in Roland, Manitoba, it has grown over the years, now supporting youth in communities in over 70 countries. With strong agricultural roots, 4-H also has a growing urban membership. There really is something for everyone.

[1:55 p.m.]

Whether they choose a more traditional 4-H project, like poultry or dairy, or something like dogs and crafts, the skills, values, friendships and experiences they develop, through learning to do by doing, carry them through their lives.

Tonight the Legislature fountains will be lit up green — thanks to you, hon. Speaker — in celebration of 4-H, whose members pledge their head to clear thinking, their heart to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service and their health for better living for their club, their community, their country and the world.

Could the House please join me in congratulating 4-H on 110 years of making a difference.


G. Kyllo: Looking around the House today, I see many members that have freshly shaved faces, marking the beginning of another Movember campaign. We'll have to wait till next week to see who is bold enough to actually start growing a mo.

Now, Movember is not just about rocking a new moustache. It's an opportunity to shine a light on men's health issues, particularly three of the most pressing concerns: prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention. We simply cannot afford to stay silent on these issues. Fathers, brothers, uncles and friends are facing significant health challenges that are rarely talked about.

On average, men are dying 4½ years earlier than women, largely due to preventable reasons. Around 10.8 million men globally are facing life with a prostate cancer diagnosis, and that number continues to grow. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young men. Shockingly, one man dies by suicide every minute, accounting for 69 percent of suicides. In Canada, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. In addition to that, men also represent 80 percent of the opioid deaths in our province.

The urgency to step up, raise awareness and support men's health has never been greater. I'm proud to say that I've been part of the Movember campaign for over 15 years. Thanks to the help of my colleagues and staff, our B.C. United team has raised a total of more than $100,000 towards the Movember campaign.

There are more ways to engage in and show support for Movember beyond growing a moustache, and I encourage everyone to find a way to participate in this year's campaign. It's not just about growing facial hair. It's about raising awareness and funds to tackle these critical issues.

Together we can make a difference, support men's health and work to ensure that no one suffers in silence.

B. Anderson: May I seek leave to make an introduction?

Leave granted.

Introductions by Members

B. Anderson: Today I would like to wish someone very special a happy birthday. It is the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast, with his sunny personality. It's his birthday. He has been an incredible mentor and a friend.

I just need to give him the embarrassment of a birthday wish from all of his colleagues in the Legislature.

Oral Questions


E. Ross: Yesterday the Premier sneered at the Premier of Saskatchewan for demanding relief from the crippling carbon tax on home heating.

Well, guess what? Manitoba's NDP Premier is also demanding fairness, and he is even suspending their provincial gas tax. That's right, an NDP Premier.

Even Rachel Notley is getting on board, calling for tax relief.

But not this NDP Premier here in B.C. The NDP refuse to fight for B.C., and the Premier won't lift a finger to give people carbon tax relief on home heating costs.

My question is to the Premier. Why is the Premier tripling his carbon tax instead of giving families a break?

Hon. R. Kahlon: Thanks to the member for the question.

We canvassed this at great length yesterday as well, and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation highlighted the fact that we believe it's not fair what the federal government did. We don't understand how the federal government made the decision that they did, without any notice, in the manner that they did. We have been advocating to them that it should be a policy that happens across the country.

[2:00 p.m.]

The member's assertion that we haven't been raising this issue with the federal government is false. We have been. It's been raised in this House. The Premier addressed this issue in this House.

It's vitally important that any policy that the federal government brings in place should be consulted with all the provinces, but it should be done in a fair, balanced way so that all British Columbians can benefit from any changes that happen.

Mr. Speaker: Member for Skeena, supplemental.

E. Ross: The ability of this B.C. government is here and now in terms of what this government can do to help the people of British Columbia. In fact, this NDP government has already done it. They've exercised their jurisdiction and authority in giving LNG Canada and other big corporations in B.C. a break on the carbon tax. They capped it at 30 bucks a ton.

Corporate handouts are easy for the Premier, but he claims that relief for everyday people would break the budget unless he can jack it up to $170 a tonne. If the Premier needs help finding savings, how about scrapping his half-billion-dollar corporate giveaway to InBC Investment Corp., a high-risk venture capital scheme.

Will the Premier end his huge corporate handouts and give families relief from his crushing carbon tax hikes?

Hon. R. Kahlon: Again, thanks to the member for the question.

So $500 million to ensure that we see investments flowing through this province in companies in every corner of this province is a significant step we've taken. We're proud of that investment.

Now if the member thinks that this idea of ensuring that investments flow into some of our rising tech companies is a challenge, he should talk to the members on this side of his chamber who were around when they introduced the Immigration Investment Fund, which also invested in tech companies throughout British Columbia.

This is an important initiative to ensure that the companies that are going to help us solve the climate change issues that we're dealing with every day in our communities are being invested in. That solution is being developed here in British Columbia, not only helping us solve the challenges we're dealing with, but also creating good-paying jobs in every corner of this province. We're proud of that, and we're going to continue to do that investment.

Mr. Speaker: Member for Skeena, second supplemental.

E. Ross: These announcements on amazing investments do not help the people of British Columbia who are suffering under an affordability crisis. People have to decide between heating their homes, purchasing medicine or buying groceries. The virtue-signalling just doesn't work anymore.

In terms of the previous questions from today — and yesterday, by the way — and everything that we've talked about for the past year, I take that as a no. This government is not going to help everyday British Columbians.

The Premier is sticking to his half-a-billion-dollar corporate giveaway, all while jacking up the carbon tax on regular people who need help. While big corporations are exempt, this Premier is hiking the carbon tax rate at the pump from under seven cents to over 37 cents.

Unlike Wab Kinew or Rachel Notley, this NDP Premier offers a half-billion-dollar corporate handout over helping working people who have to choose between heating their home or putting food on the table.

Why doesn't the Premier end his outrageous corporate giveaways and give hard-working people a break?

Hon. R. Kahlon: I cannot believe what I'm hearing from the opposition today. I cannot believe that I'm hearing from them, talking about handouts to corporations. We saw for 16 years in government where they gave the tax cuts to the wealthiest people in this province while jacking up MSP rates and adding tolls…


Mr. Speaker: Shhh.

Hon. R. Kahlon: …adding costs on the people in British Columbia.

Hon. Speaker, they talk in this House as if they just showed up. They talk as if in this House….


Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. Members, calm down.

Member for Abbotsford West, please.

Minister will continue.

Hon. R. Kahlon: They talk as if they just arrived, and they've forgotten that their history exists. I know they changed their name because they don't want people to remember their history. They're hoping the new name will somehow help people forget the years of adding costs onto middle-income families while giving the wealthiest people in this province a tax cut.

[2:05 p.m.]

We're taking a different approach. We're going to continue to help people by lowering hydro bills, lowering childcare fees, continuing to support people, because we know people need that support.


Mr. Speaker: Shhh. Members.

Members, when the question is asked and the answer is provided, let's listen to both sides, please.

S. Bond: What this minister fails to mention is that they've managed to accomplish something. It's called being the least-affordable province in the entire country. That's on this minister's watch.

He also fails to mention that when the half-billion-dollar investment was made, the CEO's salary exceeds $300,000. It's okay, I guess, to make sure that executives are well paid, but that is insulting for families who can't afford their heating bills thanks to this Premier's relentless carbon tax hikes.

After seven years, B.C. is now the most unaffordable province in this country.

Why doesn't the Premier scrap his wasteful half-a-billion-dollar corporate giveaway and do the right thing — offer families in British Columbia some relief from their crushing carbon tax?

Hon. K. Conroy: I know that the members opposite are struggling to get some relativity, so I understand why they want to talk about affordability, which is very much in our wheelhouse. But I want to make sure people understand what the opposition….


Mr. Speaker: Shhh.

Hon. K. Conroy: The plan that they're using, that they're talking about, with the carbon tax is just the wrong approach. I mean, we can just look to Alberta and see that the opposition leader's approach would actually subsidize oil companies instead of helping people. Jason Kenney — I think everybody remembers Jason Kenney. He introduced….


Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.

Hon. K. Conroy: He introduced a similar cut. Within ten days of Kenney introducing that cut, he had to admit that oil companies had hiked prices and wiped out any savings for ordinary Albertans — any savings.

The opposition leader's approach won't help people with gas prices. It will, in fact….


Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.


Hon. K. Conroy: In fact, the opposition's plan would actually cost the people of British Columbia $5 billion, so where are they going to get the money for that? What are they going to cut?


Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, this is question period.

S. Bond: I can't begin to describe how out of touch and how ill-informed that answer was from the Minister of Finance.

Today under her watch, British Columbians are making choices about whether or not they can fill their gas tank, whether they can heat their homes, and we get that kind of an answer from the Finance Minister. It is no wonder that we are living in the most unaffordable jurisdiction in the country, bar none.

Let's be clear. The people who are leading in Canada are standing up today and calling for relief to the Finance Minister on home heating. Everyone, including the NDP Premier of Manitoba, is taking this issue seriously, and by that Finance Minister's answer, apparently she and the Premier are not.

Will she get up, do the right thing today and finally listen to British Columbians who are asking for relief from the crushing carbon tax? Let's see if the Finance Minister can answer that with a yes or no.

Hon. K. Conroy: I thank the member for her question, but here's some reality for the member opposite.

I mean, let's talk about what the Leader of the Opposition said about cutting carbon tax, which is exactly what they're asking us to do — cut the carbon tax. Let me quote their leader….


[2:10 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker: Members. Okay, Members, let's hear the answer. Let's hear the answer, Members, now.

Hon. K. Conroy: Oh, there are so many quotes I could give.

Anyway, the opposition's leader said it would be a terrible mistake that will cost people more. I mean, I think he'll just say anything to get elected. The opposition leader's….


Mr. Speaker: Members.

Please continue.

Hon. K. Conroy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Actually, the opposition leader's plan, it doesn't help people with gas prices. It subsidizes big oil, which they were just complaining about. It subsidizes big oil, and it'll cost more….


Hon. K. Conroy: Oh my goodness. I just don't want to yell that loud.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Opposition Members, you are wasting your own time.

The minister will continue.

Hon. K. Conroy: What they're proposing, Mr. Speaker, will actually cost people more, and it'll actually cut services, services that people depend on in this province, which is what they did when they were first elected in 2001, but they seem to forget that.

What we should ask them is: what services are they going to cut? Are they going to cut hospital? Are they going to cut services to education? There are so many things that we need to have answers from them. What are they going to cut?


S. Furstenau: Wow. I will say: do you know who is not suffering from an affordability crisis right now? Multinational oil and gas companies that are raking in record-breaking profits, companies that this government is supporting with subsidies.

While British Columbians pay $65 a tonne for carbon tax, LNG Canada pays only $30 a tonne. This government is giving LNG Canada a sweetheart deal of subsidies to the tune of $62 million a year. Strike 1.

The International Energy Agency just announced that demand for all three fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas — will peak in 2030 and then start to decline, a glaring reminder that LNG is bad for the climate and for the economy. Strike 2.

New analysis from one of the world's premier methane scientists finds that LNG is worse for the climate than coal, contrary to the province's position that LNG will help displace coal in China and lower global emissions. Strike 3. Turns out, LNG is not good for the climate, not good for British Columbians' pockets and not good for the long-term economic security of this province.

My question is to the Premier. Will the Premier reverse the decision to give massive subsidies to Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp. and KOGAS?

Hon. R. Kahlon: I thank the member for the question.

As people at home can see, we hear one day from one side: too much. We hear from the other side: not enough. What we try to do as a government is to ensure that we balance the needs of British Columbians, make sure that we can continue to have investments flow to British Columbia and, at the same time, be a leader in protecting our environment.

We are lauded as leaders in North America for the action we're taking on climate change. I give credit to the member across the way for being part of the strategy that we brought in place to make sure that happens. We're going to continue to do that work, but while we're doing that work, we're going to continue to support families.

Recently the federal government has made a decision. Again, we've said many times in this House that we believe the decision was not thought out. We believe that they need to reconsider their decision.

The Premier said it, the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation has said it, and we continue to say that we want Canada to come to the table and engage us on a conversation about how we move forward.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.

S. Furstenau: I guess that was a no, hon. Speaker.

There were 14 standing votes in which the B.C. Greens, by the way, disagreed with the giant subsidy that went to LNG Canada, so do not suggest that we agreed with them on anything like that.

This government claims to care about climate and affordability, but they have created this atrocious deal with the oil and gas industry. While British Columbians are struggling to pay their hydro bills, the LNG sector gets discounted rates on electricity to the tune of $90 million to $106 million per year.

[2:15 p.m.]

While farmers on Vancouver Island are told not to water their crops due to drought, the fracking industry pays pennies, $2.25 per million litres of water, to contaminate millions of litres of precious fresh water in this province.

My question is to the Premier. When is this government going to acknowledge that we are in a climate industry and take the steps necessary to move this province away from subsidizing the oil and gas industry?

Hon. R. Kahlon: Again, I appreciate the member's question, but the assertion that we're not leaders when it comes to taking on climate change in North America is just false. The member knows that.

Yes, we want to continue to do better. Yes, we have to do more work to ensure that we both protect our environment and we keep people in our communities moving forward with good-paying jobs. That's important to every member of this House.

That's the work we've been doing together. The strategy that we laid out is work that the Minister of Environment is leading. All of the ministers in this government work every single day to advance. The assertion that the member makes — that, for some reason, the government doesn't take this seriously — is just false.


B. Banman: This NDP Premier seems to be more focused on virtue-signalling progressive wokeness to the world than he is with helping working-class British Columbians right here at home. Why else would this government introduce legislation to make B.C. the first place in the world where it's more difficult for the average family to have a normal gasoline-powered vehicle to get to work, school, the grocery store or the kids to the hockey game?

According to the Vancouver Sun, the average price of an electric vehicle in Canada is $73,000. After taxes, that is…. More than half of all B.C. families take home less than that.

For everyday working British Columbians, this expensive NDP plan makes zero sense. Families are struggling to pay for food and rent. They can't afford to buy fancy new EVs.

Question to this privileged NDP Premier: why is this NDP government asking hard-working everyday British Columbia families to subsidize charging stations and brand-new EVs for those who were already wealthy enough to afford them?

Hon. R. Kahlon: I thank the member for the question. We discussed this yesterday in this House.

I appreciate the member finally acknowledging that climate change is real. It's a very important step for the B.C. Conservative Party, a big policy announcement that they made. What they haven't yet said is: do they believe it's human-caused? The member refuses to answer that question.

We believe that we need to take strong climate action. Ensuring that we have a shift from fossil fuels, moving to electric cars, is one of the ways we can achieve that. B.C. is a leader. I heard members in this House saying: "How dare B.C. step out ahead and be a leader with California?" That's what people in our communities want. They want us to make sure that we're continuing to address climate change and doing it in a way that moves British Columbia forward when it comes to economic measures as well.

To the member across the way, does he believe that climate change is man-caused? If so, this is his opportunity to say it.

Mr. Speaker: The Chair also would like to remind the member that the bill is already in front of the House. Those questions can also be asked at canvass there, if the member would like.

B. Banman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would remind government that this is a time for opposition to ask questions, not the other way around.


Mr. Speaker: Shhh. Members.

B. Banman: Working poverty is real in British Columbia. That's the legacy of the NDP Premier and his failing government. In fact, one of my own staff told me that their mother, who lives in B.C., works a full-time job and is now forced to live in her car because rent in the Lower Mainland is so much more than what a working person earns — so much more. She is not alone.

This privileged Premier and his NDP party are detached from reality; so are their priorities. The only party in this House that isn't afraid to stand up for working-class British Columbians is the Conservative Party of B.C.


Mr. Speaker: Shhh. Let's hear the question, please.

B. Banman: I know my former party follows everything we do, so we know we're on the right track.


[2:20 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker: Shhh. Let's listen to the question.

B. Banman: Working-class British Columbians are being forced to spend their hard-earned tax dollars on brand-new charging stations, special infrastructure to make life easier and cheaper for the richest British Columbians who can afford to buy EVs.

Mr. Speaker: Question, Member.

B. Banman: This Premier is like a reverse Robin Hood. He wants to snatch tax money from the working poor and use it to subsidize electric vehicles for the comfortably rich.


Mr. Speaker: Member.

B. Banman: My question is to the Premier. Why would the tax money taken from those who can't afford a roof over their heads be used to pay for his overpriced plan to put a new EV in every single millionaire's driveway in British Columbia?

Hon. R. Kahlon: Today is a bizarre day for those watching, where it feels like it's an audition about who cares about working people more.

When that member was on this side, very little was done to protect working families throughout British Columbia. He was on this side with the B.C. United party when they increased taxes on working families, increasing MSP, increasing costs on everyday people with tolls, etc., and at the same time, giving cuts to the most wealthiest people in British Columbia.


Mr. Speaker: Shhh. Shhh. Let's….

Members, shhh. Members, enough.


Hon. R. Kahlon: We know that there are people struggling with global inflation. We know that there are real challenges being faced in communities throughout British Columbia. That's why we're taking the actions we're taking, giving more money back to families, lowering child care fees.

All these initiatives that we're doing in government are to help address that. We know that more is needed to be done. We're going to continue to do that work.


A. Walker: This is not how question period is supposed to go.

People in ferry-dependent communities rely on B.C. Ferries as an integral part of our highway system, whether it's for medical appointments, for work or to see loved ones. People have seen the reliability of that service go down. It's impacting small communities, rural communities like that on Lasqueti Island.

This government's failed commitments go beyond just having the ferry system be reliable. Four years ago, when government entered into a contract with Western Pacific Marine, they agreed to consult with the people of Lasqueti Island once a year to ensure that the ferry service was working for them.

Now that we are in the process of re-entering that contract negotiation, to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, can he commit to bring a representative from the Ministry of Transportation and from B.C. Ferries to the island before the contract negotiations continue so that the voices of the people of the island can be heard?

Hon. R. Fleming: Thank you to the member for the question.

The key priorities for B.C. Ferries right now are around improving reliability of the service. They have suffered from labour shortages. They have suffered from a difficult recovery from the pandemic in terms of human resources. They are working on that in earnest. I outlined some of the elements in this House a week or so ago, about how that is demonstrated in terms of the hiring and recruitment they are doing — which is in fact an international strategy.

The unregulated route, which the member speaks of, that services Lasqueti Island has also had similar impacts around sailings. We are using the occasion of a new performance term contract coming up, which we will sign and put in force no later than April 1 of 2024, as an occasion to strengthen the contract language around reliability for Lasqueti.

We are in discussions with islanders in that community and others. We are working with contracted providers who service the unregulated routes that serve small island communities and Indigenous communities up and down our coast, to make improvements and to use the next four-year contract to be able to deliver better for people on Lasqueti and everywhere else on the coast that's served by B.C. Ferries.

Mr. Speaker: Member, supplemental.

A. Walker: I appreciate the response, but it didn't really answer the question. There was a commitment made four years ago that once a year, just once a year, there would be representatives that go to the island to hear firsthand. We've seen some significant challenges lately. It's not just staffing; it's not just mechanical.

[2:25 p.m.]

We've all seen the photos of the boat with the Nerf football plugging the hole. We've all heard in our community about the challenges between staff and individuals on the island that have led to the RCMP getting involved. The community was promised that a representative from MOTI and from B.C. Ferries would come once a year to listen to islanders.

The question again: can the minister commit to ensure that somebody goes and visits the island to ensure that the voices of this island can be heard and that their input can be brought as a part of this negotiation?

Hon. R. Fleming: Specifically to what the member references, we are aware that there were some flare-ups that involved, in the end, policing authorities, that happened on Lasqueti Island this summer. We are also aware that there are some contract performance shortcomings on that unregulated route. We are working to fix that.

I would be surprised if B.C. Ferries has not visited the island to date. I will check, on behalf of the member, to see if somebody from B.C. Ferry Services or the Ferry Authority or whether the ferry advisory committee has also reached out to Lasqueti.

We know their views. We have a good idea of the service improvements that they desire. We're certainly negotiating that in the contract with B.C. Ferries as the company who provides the service and is funded to provide the service through our ministry.

If those concerns have not been specifically addressed by a company representative, I will endeavour to find out and report back to the member.


E. Sturko: The arrests at the Drug Users Liberation Front shed light on what's been a year and a half of taxpayer-funded drug trafficking.

DULF didn't just actively buy illicit drugs off the dark web. They supplied those illicit drugs through the mail to as many as 15 drug advocate programs. At least ten of these groups that received the illicit drugs also receive public funding.

At a presentation hosted by the National Safer Supply Community of Practice, the director of research for the B.C. Centre on Substance Use candidly confessed his role in the taxpayer-funded drug trafficking at DULF. This key government adviser steering government drug policies is part of taxpayer-funded drug trafficking, a network created by this government.

Will the Premier undertake a full forensic audit, cancel the public funding for organizations involved in criminal activity and fire this compromised director of research?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member.

As has been discussed in this House, on this particular issue, there have been 14,000 deaths due to the toxic drug crisis in our province. This government has been doing everything it can to ensure that we are putting in place all the programs and supports needed to eliminate the toxic drug crisis and the deaths that are occurring to it.

Part of that has been working with partners to ensure the provision of services, to ensure, in the case of what the member is talking about, that they have the equipment to do testing, which is a contract that they had in place. The ministry and the minister became aware that that contract was not being followed, and it was immediately terminated.

As I told this House, it was the expectation that everybody follow the law. The member knows, and I will say this, that I do not direct investigations. If she has evidence, then she should take that to the police.

I'll also say this. That member did not sit on this side of the House when her colleagues, the last time they were government…. I suggest she talk to some of them about what happened the last time they made allegations against health researchers.

[End of question period.]


E. Ross: I stand in the House today to present a petition with 188 signatures, on behalf of my constituents in Thornhill, asking to have a road sign stating that you have entered Thornhill.

Orders of the Day

Hon. L. Beare: Due to the legislative session being cancelled tomorrow to allow members to attend the First Nations leadership gathering, I move that when the House next adjourn, it stand adjourned until 10 a.m. on Monday, November 6, 2023.

Motion approved.

[2:30 p.m.]

Hon. L. Beare: In this chamber, I call third reading of Bill 33, Pension Benefits Standards Act.

Third Reading of Bills


Bill 33, Pension Benefits Standards Amendment Act, 2023, read a third time and passed.

Hon. L. Beare: In this chamber, I call third reading of Bill 28, Motor Vehicle Amendment Act (No. 2).


Bill 28, Motor Vehicle Amendment Act (No. 2), 2023, read a third time and passed.

Hon. L. Beare: In this chamber, I call Committee of the Whole for Bill 37, Crime Victim Assistance Amendment Act.

In the Douglas Fir Room, I call Committee of the Whole for Bill 31, Emergency and Disaster Management Act.

[2:35 p.m.]

Committee of the Whole House


The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 37; S. Chandra Herbert in the chair.

The committee met at 2:36 p.m.

On clause 1.

The Chair: All right, Members. We'll get the committee stage going for Bill 37, Crime Victim Assistance Amendment Act, 2023.

Did the minister want to make any introductions? No.

K. Kirkpatrick: Clause 1 is dealing with expansion of and redefining some definitions. "Parent," "child" and "spouse" are now their own separate definitions, as opposed to being part of an immediate family. "Immediate family member" is being expanded, which is a good step forward, given the increase in crime over the last seven years and the corresponding increase in victims.

Can the minister provide a current timeline for CVAP applications to work their way through the branch, from application to decision?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I really hope we can avoid the cheap shots in the questions. That would, I think, make things go a lot smoother.

In terms of the applications, a number of applications will receive a decision within one to two weeks, while others may take longer. It may well relate to the nature of the claim or the complexity of a particular claim or the kinds of benefits that a claimant is wanting to seek.

Some may require medical information, for example, which obviously has privacy issues and things like that that need to be dealt with. But it is hoped that applicants may start to receive it within one to two weeks of an application.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister.

What's the current volume of applications the CVAP branch had in 2022 and now in 2023?

Hon. M. Farnworth: We received approximately 4,700 applications in fiscal year '22-23.

A. Olsen: Just a question with respect to…. I appreciate that the minister provided a response back to me with respect to some questions that I had and raised with his ministry with respect to this bill. I'm not sure where to fit these questions in, so I'm going to ask them here. Maybe the minister can redirect me to another clause that's in the bill, if that suits the conversation and the discussion here better.

Just questions around the support for families and family counselling. The minister's response to me suggested that children and the families do get access to counselling. But there are some nuances to that. Maybe the minister could provide some context and clearly respond to the type of counselling that's available for children and their families if the children are victims of crime.

[2:40 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member. Victims are generally eligible for up to 48 counselling sessions to support recovery from psychological injuries resulting from an offence. Where a victim is a minor, there is no maximum cap that has been placed on sessions that they're able to receive.

Immediate family members of minors, victims, are eligible for up to 36 counselling sessions to support their own recovery from the impact of the offence. Families can also benefit from psychoeducational counselling, up to four sessions per support person, which can include any family member and other support persons, to better understand the impact of the offence on the victim and how to support their recovery.

A. Olsen: If they are a couple and they would like to receive counselling as a way to better support their child through the traumatic time, are couples able to receive counselling together in order to get that support?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Yes. Those are the four sessions that I was talking about in the last section of the comments.

A. Olsen: Thank you, Minister. Can the minister describe what the process is in order for parents to be able to access that service?

Hon. M. Farnworth: If there's an accepted claim from a victim, there would be automatic approval for a family member or a support person.

A. Olsen: The reason why I'm asking these questions is because we've been advised that there's actually quite an arduous process that has been experienced, I'd say, by some folks who are trying to access this. There have been, for example, some questions put back to people trying to seek the funds to be able to get the support they need and, as well, some administrative costs that are not paid for if the counsellor is involved.

Is this something that the minister is aware that people are experiencing?

Hon. M. Farnworth: That's one of the reasons why we're bringing forward this legislation — to be able to expand. In other words, more people are eligible and, at the same time, within the ministry, always looking at ways to improve response times.

I think one of the challenges sometimes is that you get applications coming in, and then they're not eligible. So people end up having…. That, in itself, creates challenges in terms of processing applications. What this legislation is doing is expanding that and the class and the groups of people that are eligible to be able to get the services.

I think that is going to help make the system more efficient and serve a broader segment of the population.

[2:45 p.m.]

A. Olsen: These are already approved counselling sessions, though. As is described in the letter, this doesn't require the minister to expand who can receive these services. These are services that are already available, yet there's quite an arduous bureaucratic and administrative process, including requests for folks to demonstrate that they're actually seeking counselling about the well-being of their child and support for their child.

I'm wondering how the expansion of services…. We're seeing a situation where the current services are not being delivered as they are…. I guess it's a separate question from the one of expanding the services, although I guess it would relate in that even if these are expanded, people are experiencing a rather heavy bureaucratic process.

Is this something that the minister is familiar with happening for parents who are trying to seek support for their children?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member, and it isn't…. As the member I'm sure will appreciate, it's a bit difficult to comment on a specific case in this kind of format.

But in general — and I think the member alluded to it in his letter to me, to which I responded — I know that there have been some issues in terms of claimants and around how the cost is paid and whether they have to pay the cost themselves and then be reimbursed.

The reality is that once a claim has been accepted, we are able to reimburse that cost directly or make that payment directly to the counsellor so the individual does not have to make that payment themselves.

A. Olsen: Thank you, Minister. Just for clarification, then, when it comes to the reimbursement piece, there have been experiences where individuals have had to prove that they are receiving counselling services to support their child specifically. I guess to ensure that it's not about some other issue.

In order to have that happen, they had to engage a professional, their counsellor, to then write a letter and to provide that information. In this instance, their administrative costs are not being covered.

With this new bill, will we see a situation where the administrative costs for that process and having to engage the counsellor in the process to write a letter…? Will those costs also be able to be recovered by the individuals?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Yes, we can pay for an intake report. We could pay for something like that.

A. Olsen: Shifting gears. I really appreciate this. Thank you, Minister.

With respect to eligibility for income support — again, if this needs to be in a different section, please let me know, but I don't see a clear section for this — for families whose child is a victim of a serious crime, if an adult misses work or loses income as a result of being a victim or a survivor of crime, some of those costs and some of that income can be reimbursed or they can receive some compensation for that lost income.

[2:50 p.m.]

However, in British Columbia, if it's a child who is the victim or survivor of a crime and their parents are required to take time off work or lose income in the support of their child, they are not able to receive compensation. Is the minister addressing this short-sighted policy in this bill, and if not, why not?

R. Leonard: I seek leave to make an introduction.

Leave granted.

Introductions by Members

R. Leonard: I'd like to introduce to the House Ms. Joy Tansky's grade 10 class. There are 14 folks that have come into the gallery today along with, I understand, three chaperones. I'm hoping that the House will make them feel welcome.

I also want to make note that their teacher, Ms. Tansky, has been very consistent in bringing a number of her students to this House. It's a real tribute to teachers like her who take the time to introduce their students to our democratic process to demystify this place and the work that we do here.

They are 16 years old or thereabouts, and they will soon be preregistered to vote, and they also have the potential to be sitting in this House. We have the youngest member of the Legislature, recently elected, who is only a decade older than they will be when they get to vote in a couple of years' time.

Would the House please make them feel very welcome.

Debate Continued

Hon. M. Farnworth: The member is correct. There is no sort of wage replacement for the parents of the minor. There are a lot of services and supports that are available to the minor, but not in what the member is referring to as wage loss. In fact, nowhere in the country is that the case. What this legislation will do, though, is it will make our program the strongest in the country by significantly expanding the supports that are available. That's what we were able to do at this time.

I want to let the member know the kind of supports that are available for a minor and that families are eligible for that in the support of the recovery of the minor victim. Unlimited counselling in recognition of the significant impact that the violent crime can have on the child and young people. Medical and rehabilitation expenses, personal care services, disability aids, transportation expenses where travel is necessary to access benefits, as well as home modification and, in some cases, relocation expenses.

A. Olsen: Are those services that he just identified available to adults as well?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The answer is yes.

A. Olsen: I recognize that this would make us an outlier in a good way, I would suggest, in this country. However, the province recognizes that if somebody loses a salary as a result of being a victim or a survivor of a crime, it's reasonable to provide them some compensation as they recover from that incident.

Now, in the case of a child who doesn't have a job — and is not allowed to have a job up until a certain age in this province — they're supported, necessarily, by parents who may, as a result of that crime that nobody wishes upon them…. They're going to lose wages.

[2:55 p.m.]

In some cases, we've seen that be the case. It's in order to entirely support their child with the medical needs that they have. It's to support the child for their psychological needs that they have. It's helping kids reintegrate back into society. Sometimes parents need to take time away from their work in order to be able to do that.

What we have here is…. We have an inequity in our province. If you're an adult, you can get that money back or be compensated for those lost wages. But if you're a child and you have parents who are supporting you, they can't receive the same benefit.

Why wouldn't the provincial government here want to be a positive outlier on this and provide…? I can't imagine that there's a huge number of cases like this. Certainly, in the cases that are…. We really want to be supporting parents in the best way we can. Why wouldn't we provide this service to parents?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member. I appreciate the point that he's trying to make.

The bill does not do what he wants at this point. Maybe at some point in the future, the program will get expanded further. At this point, what we're doing is some significant expansion, particularly as it relates to family members.

One of the things I'd like to point out about what we already do in this province is…. This relates to what the member is talking about in terms of the adult, what families are eligible for when it does involve a minor. In nearly every other province, those benefits are only available if there has been a fatality that is a minor. In this province, that's not the case.

I know what the member would like to achieve, but what we're doing is a significant expansion of what is a good program. We are making it the most robust in the province. We may well get to where the member wants to get to at some point.

The Chair: I'll go to the House Leader of the Third Party, and then I'm going to go back to the other questioner for a few questions as well.

A. Olsen: Yeah. It's definitely going to be the most robust in the province.

I'll just ask the final question here. I do have one other section of questions that I'll ask once my colleague has some time here.

I'll just ask this question. Would this change be available only through a legislative change, or would the minister be able to make this change to, say, add families for the wage and income support through regulation, as the legislation and regulations are currently written or as they would be written once this bill passes?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question.

It would probably be a combination of both, hon. Member, legislative and regulatory.

[3:00 p.m.]

K. Kirkpatrick: I'm going to talk about volume again. What is the anticipated level of applications that the CVAP branch will receive now that access is being expanded? What is anticipated in terms of an increase?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I can't give the member a specific answer in what we're anticipating in terms of expansion, because it depends on a number of factors, and particularly when the program is now expanded to include witnesses. It will depend on the nature of the situation. It'll depend on the witness themselves. I can't give the member a number that I could say: hey, you could be confident that it would be 10 percent or 20 percent.

What I can tell you is that we know that it's a positive change that's taking place, and it's something I think that is going to benefit. Ideally, you would not have to deal with anybody, because there would not be any violent crime, right? The reality is we know there is. What we're wanting to do is to ensure that those who are impacted are able to access services.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you for that answer. I certainly understand that it's going to be something where you've actually got to see. You'll start to see what that volume is going to be, and then adjust accordingly for it.

With that in mind, is the minister anticipating changing staffing levels within the branch? How many full-time employees are there at this point, and how many are anticipated, if there is an anticipation, are going to be required to manage the increase?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate that question. Yes, we are anticipating the need for additional staffing, and we're looking at increasing the number of positions by ten, from 47 to 57.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister for that.

It's important that when we're making changes to legislation and we are changing service expectations for those who are actually providing services, that we ask questions and we have consultation. Can the minister list which organizations were consulted regarding the changes and the expanded definitions and which professional organizations or groups were spoken to?

Hon. M. Farnworth: There has been quite an extensive consultation process take place. A lot of it was held as part of the consultation with the gender-based violence action plan. It included a wide range of stakeholders in the anti-violence sector, Indigenous partners.

Just on the Indigenous part, it included the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, Métis Nation B.C., Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C., Protect our Indigenous Sisters Society, the Southern Stl'atl'imx Health Society, Stó:lō Nation and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, for example.

[3:05 p.m.]

It also included representatives from B.C. Society of Transition Houses, Ending Violence Association of B.C., Police Victim Services of B.C., Northern Society for Domestic Peace, West Coast LEAF, other advocacy organizations, Students for Consent Culture, B.C. Federation of Labour and Inclusion B.C., QMUNITY. A whole range of consultation has taken place on the development of the bill.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister. That is an extensive list, and I appreciate that.

If I can clarify, as counselling is a significant part of the services provided and required, were the College of Psychologists or B.C. Psychological Association consulted at all in the legislation?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors was consulted.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister. Psychologists are your counsellors? Are your counsellors not certified psychologists that are then approved by CVAP? Maybe I'm getting the titles mixed up.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question. Yes, we can pay registered psychologists, for example. We can also pay registered clinical counsellors.

K. Kirkpatrick: Is there a wait-list at this point for applications for psychologists or for clinical counsellors to be approved by CVAP?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. I'm not aware of any wait-lists at this time. Clients are free to choose the counselling professional of their choice. Any counselling professional can apply for registration with the crime victim assistance program.

We will register counsellors with a range of qualifications, from those with a two-year diploma in counselling to master's level counsellors to psychologists. So that full range is there, and people are able to choose the professional of their choice.

K. Kirkpatrick: Is the minister able to tell us how many psychologists or clinical counsellors are currently CVAP approved?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I don't have that specific number, but I'm more than happy to get it for the member.

K. Kirkpatrick: I've just got a couple more on this clause.

How many complaints has the minister or the ministry received? Is the minister aware of complaints that organizations are not taking more clients, that there are challenges with wait-lists?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I'm not sure if this is where the member is at, but I don't think there's any related to CVAP. I'm wondering if you're more referring to community-based organizations, which is a different thing from CVAP.

K. Kirkpatrick: I probably asked that backwards.

There are organizations that have contracts with government in order to be able to provide the CVAP programs. Of those organizations, is the minister aware that there are wait-lists with those organizations for victims to access services?

[3:10 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. I'm going to correct both you and myself on what is a pet peeve of mine, particularly when people are listening, and that is the use of acronyms. When you and I are saying CVAP, we know what it means, but it means crime victim assistance program.

What I would say in answer to the member's question is we don't have any contracts that are delivered through the crime victim assistance program.

K. Kirkpatrick: I appreciate the answer with respect to the crime victim assistance program, and I shall say that in future.

May I then ask — perhaps this is something I should know, but I maybe have misunderstood how this runs, then — if there are not contracts, with MPSSG, with specific non-profits or counselling organizations, who is delivering the crime victim assistance program services?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question.

We have staff who administer the program. But it is the applicant, the victim, who is the one who chooses the counsellor, the counselling professional, that they want to use.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister.

I think I'm perhaps using the wrong language here. When I talk about administering the program, certainly I understand that that's within ministry that is administering the program. But when a victim has the ability to choose their own counsellor, what I'm understanding, then, is that as long as that person is crime victim assistance program–certified, the ministry deals directly and pays directly that counsellor. It's not as part of a broader contract under a non-profit counselling group.

Hon. M. Farnworth: That is correct.

A. Olsen: Before we move on…. I think the question that I have around reimbursement should come in section 3. Just one follow-up question to the eligibility for income support that I was asking about prior to my colleague.

I'm just wondering if the minister would be open to making the legislative change and leaving it to regulation whether or not families can receive that income support. Doing the legislative work now that the bill is open seems to be a natural way to indicate to families that perhaps, in the future, there is an opportunity to do it without having to open the bill back up again.

We're discussing it now. Why not provide that as an option that could just be done in regulation?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member.

I understand what the member is trying to do, and I appreciate that. But what he's also suggesting would be an important change in the expansion of the program. There would have to be policy work done. There would have to be cabinet approval, drafting, all of those things. I know there would be a lot of work that would have to be done.

I think, as I said, hopefully we can get there at some point. But right now, this is the bill that we've got before us.

[3:15 p.m.]

A. Olsen: I'll just say this. I'm disappointed that children are left out of this, but I respect the conversation and discussion that we've had this afternoon. I wanted to make sure that it was on the record.

Clause 1 approved.

On clause 2.

K. Kirkpatrick: This looks at expanding benefits from one to two years. Can the minister walk through the process of extending the time limit for making applications from one year to two years? How was that decision made?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question.

In our province, there's a two-year time limit for a civil claim, and we're aligning it with that.

K. Kirkpatrick: Will increasing the time limit also be applicable to victims who are under the guardianship of B.C.? I presume this is going to be the same for everyone.

Hon. M. Farnworth: No, it wouldn't because minors have the ability to apply up until two years after their 19th birthday.

K. Kirkpatrick: On September 17, 2021, there was a class action lawsuit certified in the Supreme Court of B.C. It was brought forward by former children in care who were not provided the information to apply for the program and subsequently have not received any victim benefits of the program, given the application window was one year past the age of 19.

You may have answered this, and the Third Party House Leader may have dealt with this, but the government has now expanded that window. Was there any consideration to provide an exemption to the timeline for applications specifically applicable to anyone who was in care prior to 1972?

Hon. M. Farnworth: No, this legislation is not retroactive. The previous…. It was one year after the 19th birthday. This will now extend it to two years after that 19th birthday.

Clause 2 approved.

On clause 3.

A. Olsen: With respect to reimbursement, I think this is probably…. I recognize that this is where we deal with some reimbursements.

One of the things that has come to our attention is the length of time. In the minister's response to me, there is an acknowledgment of the overburden, and the minister mentioned earlier that there's going to be an increase of staff by ten FTEs, I guess.

There is a situation here where folks are required to pay for their services up front, and then get reimbursed. That reimbursement often takes weeks, if not months, in order for it to happen.

[3:20 p.m.]

This will have a disproportionate impact on those who can least afford to pay for those services up front. Indeed, they might be forced to make some decisions to not receive the supportive services that they need, and their quality of life will deteriorate as a result of that.

Can the minister provide some insights as to why he feels that this is the best approach and if there are not other approaches that may be possible in order to streamline the process for people, especially those who can't afford to pay up front, to be able to access the services that they're entitled to?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. That would only be in a case of before a claim is accepted. But the reality is that once a claim is accepted, then we can pay directly. At the same time, we also have the ability and do…. For example, in cases of hardship, and that would include financial hardship, we can expedite and will expedite the claim process.

A. Olsen: Thank you, Minister. Likely just one final question on this.

I know that the minister can't…. I'm not going to be disclosing the individual situations here. It's not appropriate. It's going to make this question very difficult for the minister to answer, and I respect that, but I feel like I have to honour the fact of the time that I've spent and the conversations that I've had with constituents.

They are experiencing these delays. They're experiencing the situation where they have to pay for those services up front, and the services that the minister outlined are not necessarily working or working as the minister described them.

Perhaps I'll give the minister the opportunity to respond to that. However, it's more just a statement that if that's how the system is designed to work or supposed to work, there's a situation where that's not necessarily what's being delivered. I simply thought it would be important to bring it to the minister's attention in this forum.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I do appreciate the issue the member is trying to raise. I'll say two things. One, if there are specific cases that you've seen that are particularly problematic, then I would suggest you can bring them forward, and I'm more than happy to look into them and see what we can do.

The other issue, though, is that we are actively looking at how we can make the program more efficient, more effective. We always want to find out if there are issues, where there are gaps and things that we can fix. I'll say this. I think the addition of ten additional staff is going to help in that regard.

K. Kirkpatrick: When we're looking at expanding services and making sure that people are getting the supports they need, can the minister explain how, or give an example of how, a maximum period for reimbursement of expenses would benefit victims?

[3:25 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: As this is a financial program, there is a policy around having a time limit, which currently is one year.

That being said, what it does is give us the flexibility to look at how programs are working and, if necessary, for example, bring it into line with the claim process. You could, potentially, be looking at it going to two years, for example.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister. My understanding is that that maximum period will be developed and put into regulation. I'm just going to ask two questions here at the same time. They're related.

What kind of maximum period is being considered to be in the regulation? And if, for example, a victim is unable to find services, say counselling services, and they go on a list, because we know there are not enough clinical counsellors or psychologists, is it possible for someone's benefits to expire with this amendment in place?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The policy work in that area is being done, but no, it wouldn't impact future benefit costs.

Clause 3 approved.

On clause 4.

K. Kirkpatrick: This deals with not legally capable of forming intent. How will this benefit victims?

Hon. M. Farnworth: This is intended to deal with, let's say, a victim who is a victim of someone who's been found, for example, not criminally responsible.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister. The reasoning to establish intent when the person was not legally capable of forming intent…. That was the reason for this change?

Hon. M. Farnworth: There's the issue of intent, but then there are also cases where they're not able to establish the intent because they've been found not criminally responsible.

Clauses 4 and 5 approved.

On clause 6.

K. Kirkpatrick: Provide discretion to the director. This is something new. Can the minister outline how this change will be a benefit for victims?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It is a benefit for the victim versus the current act. Currently, the act does not allow any flexibility for the director to consider appropriate deductions from a judgment or a settlement if the victim sues the offender. The full amount of the judgment or the settlement must be deducted from ongoing crime victim assistance program benefits.

[3:30 p.m.]

This would mean, for example, if someone is very seriously injured, and they have personal care supports in place funded by the victim assistance program, there could be a disruption of those services while the settlement funds are used, and then the crime victim assistance program–funded services would resume once the settlement is exhausted. This could have a significant negative impact on the victim's continuity of care. That's why this section is now here and has been added.

Clause 6 approved.

On clause 7.

K. Kirkpatrick: Can the minister provide the rationale for the change from "must" to "may" with respect to payment to legal representatives?

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: This section is there because the way it's currently written, it presumes that the person cannot accept, let's say, a payment and that if they have a legal representative, that payment must go to the representative and then from the representative to the victim. Now it means that no, it may go to a representative, but it may also go directly to the victim.

Clause 7 approved.

On clause 8.

K. Kirkpatrick: With respect to the director's discretion, can the minister provide the reasoning behind the shift from "receipt" to "request" for information?

Hon. M. Farnworth: This section clarifies that an assessment can be made in one of two ways, either (a) by the director or (b) by the applicant.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister.

What are the conditions or provisions for the director to make a request for information?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The director may initiate a reassessment based on new information that is received.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister.

If a person does not provide the information requested, what would be the consequences?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It would impede our ability to assess their eligibility for a benefit.

K. Kirkpatrick: Now, if I'm asking this in the right place, with respect to commencement, when does the minister anticipate the regulations being completed and brought into force?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Later this fall.

[3:35 p.m.]

Clauses 8 to 19 inclusive approved.

Title approved.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 3:36 p.m.

The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.

Report and
Third Reading of Bills


Bill 37, Crime Victim Assistance Amendment Act, 2023, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.

Hon. B. Bailey: I call continued Committee of the Whole for Bill 34, please.

Committee of the Whole House



The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 34; J. Tegart in the chair.

The committee met at 3:39 p.m.

The Chair: We're going to take a recess for five minutes.

The committee recessed from 3:39 p.m. to 3:43 p.m.

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

The Chair: We'll call the committee back to order. We are dealing with Bill 34, Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act.

On clause 3.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I want to move two amendments to clause 3 and clause 4 that I provide to the Clerk.

The intent of the proposed amendments to clauses 3 and 4 is to clarify that if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has recently consumed an illegal substance in one of the areas or places listed under clause 3, they can direct the person to leave. These amendments will make it clear that police can act under section 4 based on a recent call for service and that they do not need to directly observe the consumption of the illegal substance.

Further, to clarify, this is one of the reasons why we stood down: to ensure in our consultation that everyone has an understanding of the intent of the clause. This amendment will make sure that happens not only for those who are having to enforce but also those who are subject to the legislation.

[CLAUSE 3, by adding the underlined text as shown:

Consumption of illegal substances

3 (1) A person must not consume an illegal substance in any of the following areas or places or remain in any of the following areas or places after consuming an illegal substance in the area or place:

(a) the area within 15 m of any of the following places:

(i) any part of a play structure in a playground;

(ii) a spray pool or wading pool;

(iii) a skate park;

(b) any of the following places if the public has a right of access to the place:

(i) a sports field;

(ii) a beach;

(iii) a park within the meaning of the Park Act;

(iv) a regional park within the meaning of the Local Government Act;

(v) an outdoor area established by a local government for purposes of community recreation;

(vi) a permanent public park over which the Park Board has jurisdiction under section 488 of the Vancouver Charter;

(vii) a park held in trust by a local government;

(c) the area within 6 m of the outside of the entrance to any of the following places:

(i) a place to which the public has access as of right or by invitation, express or implied, whether or not a fee is charged for entry;

(ii) a workplace;

(iii) a prescribed place;

(d) the area within 6 m of the outside of the entrance to a place occupied as a residence, if the public has a right of access to the area;

(e) the area within 6 m of a public transit bus stop;

(f) a prescribed place;

(g) the area within a prescribed distance from a prescribed place.

(2) Subsection (1) (a), (b) and (e) does not apply to an area to which the public does not have a right of access.]

The Chair: We'll take a brief recess to get copies made and distributed. Then we'll move forward.

The committee recessed from 3:45 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

The Chair: We'll call the committee back to order.

The two amendments that have been introduced have been copied and shared with those in the House. We will share an electronic copy with those online as soon as it's available.

We're dealing with the amendment to clause 3.

Amendment approved.

On clause 3 as amended.

E. Sturko: I hope that this is the right time. I would like to move an amendment to clause 3 of Bill 34.

[Clause 3, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the underlined test as shown:

Consumption of illegal substances

3 (1) A person must not consume an illegal substance in any of the following areas or places:

(a) the area within 15 m of any of the following places:

(i) any part of a play structure in a playground;

(ii) a spray pool or wading pool;

(iii) a skate park;

(b) any of the following places if the public has a right of access to the place:

(i) a sports field;

(ii) a beach;

(iii) a park within the meaning of the Park Act;

(iv) a regional park within the meaning of the Local Government Act;

(v) an outdoor area established by a local government for purposes of community recreation;

(vi) a permanent public park over which the Park Board has jurisdiction under section 488 of the Vancouver Charter;

(vii) a park held in trust by a local government;

(c) the area within 6 m of the outside of the entrance to any of the following places:

(i) a place to which the public has access as of right or by invitation, express or implied, whether or not a fee is charged for entry;

(ii) a workplace;

(iii) a prescribed place;

(d) the area within 6 m of the outside of the entrance to a place occupied as a residence, if the public has a right of access to the area;

(e) the area within 6 m of a public transit bus stop;

(f) a prescribed place;

(g) the area within a prescribed distance from a prescribed place.

(f) a hospital, which has the same meaning as in Section 1 of the Hospital Act, except for areas that are designated as an overdose prevention site or supervised consumption site:

(i) for the purposes of this section, an "overdose prevention site" means a place where overdose prevention services are provided;

(ii) for the purposes of this section, a "supervised consumption site" has the same meaning as the exemption granted under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Canada);

(g) a medical facility, defined here as a medical clinic or the office of a medical practitioner that is owned, operated or funded by a regional health board, except for areas that are designated as an overdose prevention site or supervised consumption site:

(i) for the purposes of this section, an "overdose prevention site" means a place where overdose prevention services are provided;

(ii) for the purposes of this section, a "supervised consumption site" has the same meaning as the exemption granted under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Canada);

(h) a prescribed place;

(i) the area within a prescribed distance from a prescribed place.

(2) Subsection (1) (a), (b) and (e) does not apply to an area to which the public does not have a right of access.]

The Chair: Would you like to speak to it, and we will circulate?

On the amendment.

E. Sturko: Yes, I would like to speak to it.

If I might just be indulged for a moment to talk about why I feel that this is an important amendment to make.

I recently had interactions with a number of nurses, and I've received a number of correspondence to my office from people that work in the health care setting. From what I understand, and from our discussion a day and a half ago, hospitals are already a place where the consumption of illicit drugs would be forbidden. Yet in spite of that being the case, a number of health care providers, especially nurses, are impacted by drug use.

It's taking place in hospital rooms, so people are using illicit drugs in their rooms. People are using illicit drugs in washrooms, unfortunately, in clinic washrooms, and areas where they're in health care settings.

One of those other extremely concerning places is in long-term care facilities, where nurses have identified that individuals who are being now placed into long-term care facilities — seniors facilities — are using drugs. They've seen an increase in the amount of drug dealers attending those areas, and again, both clientele of those locations and health care workers in those settings are being exposed to toxic drug smoke.

Multiple incidents in hospitals across British Columbia where nurses have been exposed to drug smoke from illicit drugs in hospital rooms and have actually had to go to the emergency room for treatment. What the nurses reported to me was that they feel a lot of pressure not to report those incidents. They are being told that it would harm what's happening with the treatment of drugs, and it will stigmatize people.

Of course, we don't want to criminalize people. That's the intent of the pilot. But we also want to make sure that health care workers have as much protection as possible.

I'm really concerned by what health care providers, particularly front-line nurses, have told me is the case for them. We know that, for example, in the emergency room setting, especially in my own home community of Surrey, at Surrey Memorial Hospital, they're very overrun at times with unhoused people, people with substance use issues, particularly as the weather gets bad. People are coming in for warm blankets. People are coming in for sandwiches and often, then, sometimes wander and are using illicit substances within the hospital.

I'm just making it clear and codifying, I think, for health care workers that this is something that is not accepted. I know it's already covered in "workplace" as the definition, but I think it really needs something special.

[3:55 p.m.]

It needs special attention in this definition that we've put together here. It does specify, though, that if there is a prescribed area within the hospital…. Another hospital that serves my constituency, Peace Arch, has an overdose prevention site, safe consumption area. But those areas, of course, are places that people can use illicit substances. They can use illegal drugs there.

We just want to make sure that nurses and doctors and other allied health workers have the full protection that they deserve when they're working in high-risk environments. Along with the exposure to the smoke from drugs that are being used, nurses also reported to me that they're often being poked with uncapped needles that they're finding in bed sheets. It's really concerning. I was very disturbed, actually, by what they told me.

I hope that, in taking your time to just look at our proposed amendment…. The intention here is not to try to further criminalize people or to dissuade them from coming for medical help. But we want to recognize that in coming for medical help — for example, to a hospital or clinic — we are codifying the right to work in a safe environment for nurses and other health care workers that are at the front line of the crisis we're currently facing. We don't want to see nurses getting poisoned.

Actually, it reminds me of one other thing that they told me is a concern for them. Because of the amount of drug consumption they are seeing within health care facilities, nurses are also worried they're going to then give someone medication that's actually prescribed to them because of their hospital visit and overdose that person. With someone using an unknown substance and then, on top of that, receiving perhaps a prescribed substance in the hospital, maybe a pain reliever or something, the danger of actually overdosing someone in the hospital is significant, and they are worried about the impacts on their own careers.

Thank you for the time to bring forward this amendment and for your consideration to just add some, I guess, more codified language that would signal the importance of making sure that health care workers have safe environments where they're free from toxic illicit drugs.

The Chair: We're going to take a short recess while the Chair reviews the amendment.

The House recessed from 3:57 p.m. to 4:06 p.m.

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

The Chair: We'll call the committee back to order. The proposal is to add two new paragraphs, the text of which has been provided to members. It's been proposed by the member for Surrey South. Any debate on the amendment?

S. Furstenau: I am not able to support this amendment for a number of reasons, which I won't go into because I want to talk to the clause itself as has been amended already.

This particular amendment really deals with health infrastructure, which I don't think is the jurisdiction of this ministry or this minister. I think that should there be needs for action within health infrastructure or within the health care system that the avenue for that is not through the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I just want to speak briefly to the amendment. I will not be supporting the amendment. I appreciate the spirit with which the member proposed it.

There are a number of considerations. One, the legislation is for outdoor public drug use. Indoors, we talked about in the past couple of days. The hospitals — health authorities have the power, right now, to set policies and regulations as regards to their facility. WorkSafe has rules and procedures and policies in place around safe worksites, which we want to see for everybody regardless of where they work.

On that basis, we will not be supporting the amendment, but I do appreciate the spirit in which it was offered.

Amendment negatived.

S. Furstenau: Not wanting to be left out, I have a proposed amendment to this clause.

[(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to either of the following:

(i) an area in which people have a right to shelter;

(ii) an area in which there is no safe consumption service or urgent public health need site.


(ii) an area in which there is no overdoes prevention or urgent public health need site.


(ii) an area that is not within a reasonable distance from a safe consumption service or urgent public health need site.


(ii) an area that is not within a reasonable distance from an overdose prevention or urgent public health need site.]

The Chair: Would the member wish to speak to the amendment? Then we'll take a short recess and distribute it and assure that it is in order.

On the amendment.

S. Furstenau: The intention of this legislation, as stated by the minister, is to: "direct people away from what are, in most communities, deemed to be inappropriate places for public drug use." The minister states that an appropriate place to use drugs would be an overdose prevention site, but safe consumption services are not available across B.C.

The member for Saanich North and the Islands and myself have raised concerns about the inaccessibility and unavailability of safe consumption sites and overdose prevention sites across the province. Therefore, we believe that this legislation should not apply in areas where there are no overdose prevention sites available.

[4:10 p.m.]

Indeed, we have canvassed the minister at great length to identify what he would consider to be an appropriate site for drug consumption. He has not provided anything other than to suggest that a safe consumption site is an appropriate site. When there are only 46 of these in the entire province, and most of them close by eight o'clock at night, that leaves a lot of people with, apparently, according to the minister, no appropriate place. I think that this question has to be answered.

We are, with this legislation, trying to take a public health emergency and turn it into something that we don't have to look at anymore because it makes us uncomfortable. It should make us uncomfortable. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable that six people die in this province every day because we are not appropriately dealing with a public health emergency.

The more that this health emergency becomes politicized, the more it's starting to seem like politicians telling health experts how to do their jobs. We would never do that with cancer. We wouldn't stand in this place and have a little political debate about how to address people's cancer treatment. Yet we have deeply politicized a seven-year-old health emergency in this building.

On top of that, another crisis — the number of unhoused people in this province continues to dramatically increase due to a lack of support, a lack of investment in non-market housing, a lack of investment in supportive housing. Thousands of people are forced to live outdoors, are forced to find shelter for themselves outdoors. In a lot of cases, that shelter that they find for themselves is in areas that this bill will now indicate as inappropriate for drug consumption.

B.C. case law has established that people have the right to provide their own shelter. What a place we've come to — that a judge has to indicate that people in B.C. have a right to shelter.

We are concerned about the disproportionate impact that this legislation is going to have on unhoused and precariously housed community members, on people, the public — people who need support, not further marginalization, not to be criminalized because they are unhoused, because they are poor, because they are using a substance.

For these reasons, we are introducing amendments to Bill 34, Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act.

The Chair: The committee will now take a recess.

The committee recessed from 4:13 p.m. to 4:20 p.m.

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

The Chair: We'll call the committee back to order.

S. Furstenau: On a Wednesday that feels like a Friday, I'm asking for unanimous consent of the House to withdraw the motion that I put forward with the amendments. I have the proper one now.

Leave granted.

Amendment withdrawn.

S. Furstenau: Further to the comments I made, the proposed amendment that we have to clause 3 is to move that the clause be further amended by adding the following underlined text, as shown, after clause 3(2).

[(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to either of the following:

(i) an area in which people have a right to shelter;

(ii) an area that is not within a reasonable distance from a safe consumption service or urgent public health need site.]

On the amendment.

A. Olsen: I appreciate the opportunity to enter into this debate at this stage. I think that it's important that I emphasize my colleague's point that the minister has been given several opportunities throughout this debate to identify what he considers to be an appropriate place for people to go. We're very clear on the areas that the minister is deeming inappropriate. We can see that in the bill here. It's interesting that schools aren't part of that. I recognize playgrounds are. On the minister's website, primary schools and secondary schools are identified but not in this list.

What are listed in this list are places where people can go and seek shelter overnight. We've seen this in the city of Victoria, and we've seen this in communities around the province. Where people have no place to go, they're able to set up tents in parks. They're allowed to camp there. There's been a lot of case law around this. In many instances, in most instances, they have to move on at a certain time in the morning, but they're allowed to be there, and they're allowed to seek shelter there.

Again, to point out the absolute mess that this government has made of this…. Even though the minister, in the second day of discussion, has decoupled this entirely from the decriminalization project that his government was taking victory laps on earlier this year….

Because they failed to deliver appropriate places for British Columbians to go in communities across the province, because they didn't provide a comprehensive package of policy, programs and services, harm reduction services, rather than just celebrating the decriminalization piece, the singular piece of it, they failed to deliver the other programs and services that are required in order for there to be some coherence in this. But this government has created an incoherent package of programs and services that doesn't make any sense.

[4:25 p.m.]

This is yet another example of that, where there are not appropriate places — and those are the minister's words — to go and consume illicit substances, which individuals can legally possess. Now, even if there's a suspicion, they can be harassed by police officers. What's included in this list are places where people are legally able to shelter themselves overnight, set up a tent and find a place to get some sleep. That's the reason why I support this initiative from my colleague.

I think that the minister hazards a scenario here where, unnecessarily, because of the failure of his own government, we've created this confusing layering of policies and now responses in legislation and letters of support from the federal government. That, frankly, is going to take the courts to navigate. I don't think that was the intention of anybody in this exercise and in this pilot project — to create a more complex legislative, regulatory and social services framework.

When it comes right down to it, this is a conversation about the increasing poverty in our society and a socioeconomic system that is not serving people. These are the most vulnerable, marginalized folks in our society. We're creating an absolute bureaucratic mess as a response to the challenges that they face.

[S. Chandra Herbert in the chair.]

It's appalling. I'm sad that this is the way that this government has taken what should have been a positive step forward and made it an impossible situation.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I'll be brief on this, because we have spent a lot of time over the last two days talking about the points that the member has raised. I've responded to those. Obviously, there's a disagreement with us. I've made it clear that this government is committed and has been expanding overdose prevention sites and will continue to do that, along with all the other services, and address the issues around poverty, which we all agree are part and parcel of this.

As I've pointed out, this legislation deals with specific outdoor public drug use. Responding to community public concerns, it strikes a balance on the right approach forward.

I'll not be supporting this amendment.

Amendment negatived.

S. Furstenau: Clause 3(1) now, as amended, includes that people cannot remain in these places.

A person must not consume an illegal substance in any of the following places, and there's a long list here: any part of a play structure, playground, spray pool, wading pool, skate park, sports field, beach, a park within the meaning of the Park Act, a regional park within the meaning of the Local Government Act, an outdoor area established by local government for purposes of purposes of community recreation, a permanent public park in which the park board has jurisdiction under section 488, a park held in trust by the local government, an area within six metres outside the entrance of any of the following places: a place to which the public has access as any right or invitation, expressed or implied, whether or not a fee is charged for entry; a workplace; a prescribed place; an area within six metres of the outside of the entrance to a place occupied as a residence, if the public has a right of access to the area; an area within six metres of a public transit bus stop; a prescribed place; and the area within a prescribed distance from a prescribed place.

Can the minister provide any evidence, data or consultation that led to the determining of the places listed in this section of the bill?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I know that we are taking a vote from another committee, so I will move right now that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 4:30 p.m.

The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.

Committee of the Whole (Section B), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.

Report and
Third Reading of Bills


Bill 31, Emergency and Disaster Management Act, reported complete without amendment.

Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be read a third time?

Hon. L. Beare: Now.

Mr. Speaker: Members, you have heard the question; it's third reading of Bill 31, Emergency and Disaster Management Act.

Division has been called.

[4:35 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.]

Bill 31, Emergency and Disaster Management Act, read a third time and passed on the following division:

yeas — 42
Anderson Bailey Bains
Beare Begg Brar
Chandra Herbert Chen Chow
Conroy Coulter Dean
D'Eith Dix Donnelly
Dykeman Farnworth Furstenau
Glumac Greene Kahlon
Kang Leonard Lore
Ma Malcolmson Mercier
Olsen Paddon Parmar
Popham Routledge Routley
Russell Sharma Simons
Sims A. Singh R. Singh
Starchuk Whiteside Yao
nays — 22
Ashton Banman Bernier
Bond Doerkson Halford
Kirkpatrick Kyllo Letnick
Merrifield Morris Oakes
Paton Ross Rustad
Shypitka Stewart Stone
Sturdy Sturko Tegart

Hon. R. Kahlon: Hon. Speaker, in this chamber, I call Committee of the Whole for Bill 34, Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act.

In the Douglas Fir Committee Room, I call Committee of the Whole for Bill 38, International Credentials Recognition Act.

Committee of the Whole House



The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 34; S. Chandra Herbert in the chair.

The committee met at 4:49 p.m.

On clause 3 (continued).

The Chair: I'll draw the committee to order. We're looking at Bill 34, Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act.

S. Furstenau: I can repeat my question. The question was on the evidence, data and consultation that led to determining the lists of places in this clause.

[4:50 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I mean, the question is basically the same one as I answered a couple of days ago. There was a significant amount of consultation done on the development of this legislation from both experts and in terms of local governments and UBCM and, as I mentioned in our previous discussions, First Nations. There has been a lot of consultation that has taken place in the development of the bill.

S. Furstenau: How about data? Can the minister speak to the rates of substance use in these particular areas that have led to this particular list of places being put into this clause?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Again, we have dealt with this question. The answer I gave that last time was that this is based on concerns being raised by the public and by local government about places that they were seeing where they were concerned about public drug use. It's on that basis that we have brought forward this legislation in concert with consultation with experts in health, policing agencies and local government.

S. Furstenau: I think the reason why the questions keep getting asked is partly because the answers aren't particularly satisfying or thorough.

The minister has indicated that this is about sentiment. This is about concerns. In the hierarchy of evidence, we're talking about anecdotal, as opposed to what I've been asking for, which is data that would be reinforcing why these decisions are made.

In essence, this list of locations in this clause is a de facto…. Essentially what we get to is public drug use has been made illegal, because as of yet, I have not heard from the minister of anywhere that he can identify, other than a safe consumption site, that he would call an appropriate place for drug use.

When you go through this list, I cannot identify, really, a public place that hasn't been listed on here. So maybe the minister can provide that information. For a person who is unhoused and using substances, can the minister describe — in absence of a safe consumption site, because there are only 46 in B.C., and they close at eight o'clock — where, after this legislation is passed, would that person be not considered to be in illegal activity if they are consuming drugs?

[4:55 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the member asking the questions. I've given the answer. It's not that I haven't given an answer. It's just that the member doesn't like the answer. I think, you know, that's part of the challenge. The reality is this: it's anywhere that's not specified in the legislation.

I also want to make this point. I think most members of the public would find the idea that somehow their concerns that at a park, where kids gather or families gather to have a picnic, or at a bus stop…. The idea that someone shooting up in public at those locations is somehow anecdotal or to be devalued — I think it's just wrong.

As I've explained and said previously in our discussions, the public support the work that's being done. They want to see an expansion of overdose prevention sites and supports and services — absolutely. I think all of us want to see that. Government is committed to doing that.

We have gone from one to 46 in terms of the bricks-and-mortar overdose prevention sites. And there are mobile overdose prevention sites. We're working with communities and health authorities to make sure that there are more.

But at the same time, to somehow dismiss the concerns of people in communities as though that's not relevant or shouldn't be taken into account — that's not acceptable. That is not how you build public support.

Those are concerns that are coming from communities. Those are coming from people who go to public spaces with their families, and they don't want to expose their kids to that kind of public drug use. That doesn't mean they don't support overdose prevention sites. It doesn't mean they don't support all the services. They do.

It's about a balance. And that's what this legislation is about. It's providing that balance in concert with all the other programs and initiatives that are being undertaken in different ministries within government to deal with the toxic drug crisis and, at the same time, also letting the public know that we do take their concerns seriously and that we are ensuring that they are also being heard.

That's the approach that we've taken with this legislation. That's the approach that we're going to take after this legislation.

As I've stated a number of times, this isn't about criminalizing people. It's about providing a tool to move people on. That's what local governments asked for. That's what we've been working with police on. And this is the way in which that's being accomplished.

I understand what the member wants. We are getting to where we need to be by, as I've said, the expansion of services and the provision and the funding that's gone into other ministries. But I really do believe that if you don't recognize public concerns, then you're not going to get the support you need for all the other things that you want to do.

S. Furstenau: I think the minister might be misinterpreting my questions. I understand public concerns on a myriad of fronts.

[5:00 p.m.]

I spent months and months listening to public concerns about the drug poisoning crisis, as a part of the committee. I heard more from the public about this issue than most people in this House, so I take very seriously the public concerns, but what I think the public is also concerned with is six people dying every day. I think the public is concerned with thousands upon thousands of people in B.C. not having a place to live.

I'm not trying to be difficult when I ask this question, because I didn't get an answer to it last time. In this clause, it includes parks of all kinds. It's defined parks. The Park Act. Parks, according to the Vancouver Charter. A park held by a local government. At the same time, we have court decisions in B.C. that have upheld people's rights to shelter in parks.

My question comes back to what I just asked. If a person is unhoused and is sheltering in a park, according to this clause, in this legislation, a person must not consume an illegal substance in that area, so what is the expectation of enforcement officers in that scenario?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I'll make a couple of points on this.

First, this isn't, as I've said a number of times, about police SWAT teams going out and looking for people. It's about specified areas where people are gathering, and those are outlined. They're just parks where kids and families are. That's where the focus will be. It's not sort of teams of police going out, combing the province, looking at every nook and cranny to confront people. That's not what this is about.

The member raises the right to shelter. I understand that. We also understand court rulings around that. That's why, when it comes to the development of regulations, we would obviously be taking those things into consideration. Again, it comes back to what I said earlier: we are taking a balanced approach in terms of the development of this legislation.

S. Furstenau: There are businesses and workplaces that actually advertise the availability of naloxone on site. People may choose to use substances near those businesses as a potential life-saving measure. How are we ensuring that those people can still receive life-saving support if it's needed?

[5:05 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. This legislation isn't intended to be punitive. If a business has naloxone and someone overdosed outside their door and they used the naloxone on them, no one's going to be punished or ticketed. That's not what this is about.

E. Sturko: Just in reference to one of the questions asked by the Leader of the Third Party, how does he anticipate regulations under the legislation being made to take into consideration people that are sheltering within the prescribed areas?

Hon. M. Farnworth: There still hasn't been a determination made in terms of what that potentially would look like. But I can tell you what it will not look like. It will not be where kids and families gather.

E. Sturko: Thank you. I appreciate that response from the Solicitor General.

In clause 3, can the minister share how the location distances were determined? Specifically, why was it 15 metres from a play structure? Why not further, or at the minimum of 15 metres from any park that includes a play structure?

[5:10 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: This is the distance that was in the Health Canada exemption. It's also the distance that is in a number of local government bylaws.

E. Sturko: What about public plazas, libraries or busking areas? Are those captured under this clause?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It depends where they're located, in terms of one of the specified areas that is laid out in the bill.

E. Sturko: To the Solicitor General, can he please outline specifically…? What's meant by "an outdoor area established by a local government for purposes of community recreation"? Specifically, will that include trails, open fields that aren't sports fields explicitly — areas where families might play bocce or frisbee — or open-air theatres?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It's intended to be things such as outdoor ice rinks, outdoor rinks, outdoor lacrosse boxes, tennis courts, things where people gather and recreate that are not necessarily in a park, for example, and that would not be classed as a sports field.

E. Sturko: Thank you for the response.

If it's for the purpose of recreation, will that include trails, specifically?

[5:15 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I would say it is situation-dependent. If it's in a park, it would be covered. If it's not in a park, it could be dependent on whether it's a trail that people are just using to get from point A to B. That would be the difference.

E. Sturko: What about the Galloping Goose Trail?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question.

No, this probably wouldn't be covered. This is more of a transportation corridor.

E. Sturko: It's important to note that the clause and this bill are specific to the consumption of drugs, not the possession of drugs. Can the minister please explain why this government felt that continuing to allow the possession of drugs in these areas and places was acceptable, given that we've had multiple reports in B.C. of kids finding drugs left behind in recreation areas, playgrounds and fields?

Hon. M. Farnworth: All I'd say is this: this bill is not about possession. It is about public drug use.

E. Sturko: I do understand that this is a bill related to the consumption of illicit substances in prescribed areas. However, the question is: why was possession left out?

My next question would be why drug paraphernalia is being left out to be possessed in these areas, particularly when a large concern, by parents especially, is finding uncapped needles, for example, in areas for families — picnic areas, parks and playgrounds.

Why was it decided that this bill would focus only on the consumption and not also address one of those other symptoms of drug use in public areas, which is a significant concern to business owners, and to prohibit even having drug paraphernalia, so that we can start addressing those items being left behind? Why did the government choose not to address either the possession, since drugs may inadvertently be left behind, or even the paraphernalia? Why was that not addressed by this government?

[5:20 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question.

Again, I'll just come back to…. In the development of this bill, it was very much in terms of what we're hearing from local government, what it is that they were looking for, what police were telling us they were looking for, what public health was telling us they were concerned about and how things should work.

This bill is not about possession. It is about public drug use. That is the focus of what we were hearing about. Inappropriate places that local government identified and that we've specified in the bill.

E. Sturko: Entrances to businesses that the public doesn't use as an entrance. For example, a rear entrance that might be a back door used for deliveries. Are these captured under subsection (1) and sub (d)?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Yes, they are.

E. Sturko: Okay. For subsection (1), para (e), can the minister provide a definition for "public transit bus stop"? I'm going to be asking…. Does it actually…? What about private shuttle bus stops or taxi stops? Are these also included within this definition?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I just want to clarify for the member. What she asked in the previous question is actually captured under 3(1)(c)(ii).

[5:25 p.m.]

In answer to the question, it was public transit bus stops. That's the area that was identified as a concern because of the number of kids that gather at bus stops, for example.

E. Sturko: Thank you for the response.

What are the expectations for enforcement regarding these areas, specifically in front of businesses or behind businesses? Are there any expectations for owners and managers to take reasonable steps to prevent people from consuming illegal substances within the six-metre buffer zone, as there are with smoking and vaping?

For example, the government website on tobacco and vapour-free places…. Under the "Responsibilities of managers or owners to enforce the buffer zone," it states:

"Owners and managers are required to take reasonable steps to prevent people from smoking/vaping within the six-metre buffer zone on their property. They are not required to enforce the law on public property, such as sidewalks, unless the person is within the control of the owner, such as a customer or patron, or is their employee. For example, if you place a bench at the doorway to your store, you must make sure people do not use tobacco or vapour products while sitting there."

Another area includes lessees, under those responsible.

Will there be any responsibility on business owners to be the ones managing the situation?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The answer is no.

E. Sturko: I'm just going to skip ahead, I think, to, perhaps, my final question on clause 3.

Just for further clarification, then, with regard to things like the entrances and exits of buildings within the areas…. Are those also not, then, the responsibility of landlords or property managers or apartment building managers? They are not, also, required to take those pre-emptive steps to manage that area. Is that correct? That will all fall under the jurisdiction of police.

Hon. M. Farnworth: That is correct.

E. Sturko: My final question on this clause. What is captured under subsection (2)?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It's technical, and it would work this way. Let's say you have this six-metre distance. It's six metres, and it hits a private property. Let's say there's the property at five metres. Then it would end at the five metres.

E. Sturko: Just for clarification, after the five metres, at the sixth metre, that would be the Trespass Act?

[5:30 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: Okay. You can look at this two ways. We've got this space here. There's the six, and at five metres you hit a private property thing. So if you were using there and you went over the five metres into the private property, then yes, you would be trespassing.

If you were the homeowner and were on your balcony and were using, that is your own property. So the bubble would still end at your private property line.

A. Olsen: Are schools, elementary and secondary schools, included in this?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Schools are already covered. It would also be illegal to possess and have in schools, so it would be illegal to use as well. So they're already covered, and that's why.

A. Olsen: Where are they covered?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It's an exception to the federal exemption, and it's covered by the CDSA.

A. Olsen: I appreciate that, and thank you to the minister for the response.

It kind of goes back to the questions that I was asking, then, yesterday. I'm confused. I did see on the website, as I was referencing, that elementary and secondary schools, licensed child care facilities were not covered by the exemption, as are the vast majority of the places that are already in this bill. So I'm confused as to why the exemption letter works in one instance but why the minister is arguing now that it's failing in this other instance.

[5:35 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: In that way, it's really quite straightforward, which is that you're not allowed to possess. You're not allowed to use on school grounds or school property.

That's why they're not required in the rest of those bills. Other places, you cannot use. But in the case of schools, you're not allowed to possess, and you're not allowed to use.

A. Olsen: They're not allowed to…. The public website says the following: "Certain public spaces and locations are not covered. Anyone found in possession of any amount of illegal drugs in these locations could be arrested and charged with a criminal offence and have their drugs seized."

Bullet points here: "On the premises of elementary schools and secondary schools and licensed child care facilities, spray pools, commonly referred to as splash pads, wading pools, playgrounds and skate parks, airports and on Canadian Coast Guard vessels and helicopters."

I guess what's confusing for me in this is not the lack of clarity of what's on the website, but why is it necessary to be adding spray pools, wading pools, playgrounds and skate parks in the legislation that we see in front of us but not required to put elementary, secondary schools, licensed child care facilities?

I'm wondering, and the minister has yet to provide a rationale, what the inconsistency is here? Why the inconsistency?

[5:40 p.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. I think it would be fair to say that yes, there is a duplication. But it doesn't take away from the fact that you cannot use or possess on school grounds or school property.

S. Furstenau: Section 3(1)(c)(iii),"a prescribed place." Could the minister define what might constitute a prescribed place? How might these places be determined?

Hon. M. Farnworth: We haven't identified it at this point.

S. Furstenau: Is there a process that would be required for adding a prescribed place?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It would be by regulation under section 9 of the act. So it would be by Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council.

S. Furstenau: What would inform that decision?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. We're not planning any at this point. But if something were to arise, it would be informed by consultation in the same way that the bill was.

S. Furstenau: If it were to be so that a prescribed place would be added, how would these regulations be communicated effectively to the public?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It would be developed by networking, by working with the groups impacted by a proposed regulation and other means of communication that government has at its availability.

S. Furstenau: Section 3(1)(d) indicates "the area within 6 m of the outside of the entrance to a place occupied as a residence, if the public has a right of access to the area."

How does it impact people who might be using substances near shelter spaces?

Hon. M. Farnworth: This section is primarily about apartment buildings or condos. It's not about shelters.

[5:45 p.m.]

S. Furstenau: So what about for people who are using substances near apartment buildings or near supportive housing?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question. I think the reality is that in most shelters or housing that the member is talking about, they have policies about not using around the entranceway. Typically, they have consumption spaces that are away from the entrance to the facility or the shelter.

S. Furstenau: Just before we finish off with this clause, I just want to reiterate that this legislation isn't going to solve the problem of public drug use. It's not going to solve the problems that are contributing to public drug use: poverty, trauma, homelessness and lack of available services that people need.

This is legislation that, I think, is very much creating the risk of adding additional stigma to people who are already the most stigmatized people in the public, in our communities. They pay for that stigma with their lives and their health; they pay for that stigma by already being excluded from public life in so many ways. Reacting to a public health emergency in a way like this exacerbates that health emergency.

I just want to put on the record an excerpt from a speech from an NDP Member of Parliament, Gord Johns. He brought a private member's bill, Bill C-216, to the parliament. He said:

"We need to listen to experts. It is so important that everybody in the House listen to the experts. I travelled across this country when I was talking about my bill, Bill C-216, which was just a reflection of the Expert Task Force on Substance Use. I was able to meet with people on the front line of this crisis, such as people who use substances, and experts, and the whole time they encouraged us to listen to the report.

"The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, as I have cited, has come forward very much in alignment with the expert task force, and actually had a seat on that task force. The task force was unanimous in that we need to stop criminalizing people who use substances, we need to expunge records of people who have been charged with personal possession and we need to ensure that people have access to a safe supply and treatment on demand.

"So we meet them where they are at, and we invest in recovery, education and prevention, because we know that when people relapse, we need to catch them, but we also need to meet them where they are at, through the whole thing."

It's interesting to me that the federal NDP sounds a lot more like the B.C. Greens on this issue than the provincial NDP.

We've canvassed the minister for days on this bill: what informed it? How much will it cost? What are the expected outcomes? What are the alternatives to the locations that are identified in this bill?

[5:50 p.m.]

We've gotten pretty unimpressive answers, and I think that speaks to the fact that this bill isn't a solution to the problem that people in our communities are seeing, feeling and experiencing. Those experiences and those sentiments and what people are experiencing are valid, serious and true, but this bill isn't going to fix that. It's not.

People don't need more stigmatization. They don't need more policing and enforcement. People need places to live. They need services and supports. They need governments to rebuild the social safety net, which is gone.

This is a reactionary piece of legislation. A year from now, it won't have solved the problems in communities. It won't have made these problems go away.

We have, actually, probably contributed to harm even in the debate of this bill. At times, it feels like: "Who wants to marginalize people most?"

These are human beings in our communities who need people in rooms like this, with this privilege, with this amount of resources available, to want to fix things. That's not what this legislation is going to do. With the amendments that were brought in by the minister, it's actually going to make it worse.

I want to go to my community and say: "When solutions come forward like the Village site, which sees an 18 percent decrease in crime…." That's the kind of data that I'm talking about. That's the kind of informed and evidence-based decision-making that I'm talking about. That's what I'd like to see this government invest more in.

What works? What helps people? What gives people a place to live in dignity and health and well-being and gets them employed and moves them back into the place they belong as a true part of our communities, as a part of the public that we actually care about?

It's a sad place we're at, less than a year after the introduction of the Health Committee report, where we had unanimous consent in this House for action on this. None of which involved more criminalization of people. It involved investing in a continuum of care and recognizing that the social determinants of health should be determining policy and law-making in this House. We serve people. We serve all the people.

I don't have a question. I just wanted to put that on the record.

Clause 3 as amended approved.

On clause 4.

The Chair: There is a proposed amendment, I believe.


The Chair: Clause 4 was already amended? Okay.

I believe the amendment was presented. I don't think…. Yeah, that hasn't happened yet.

E. Sturko: To the minister: can you describe what would constitute the…? Hold on a second. My questions are still from the old one.

Thank you, Chair. Sorry about that.

To the minister: can you please define what is meant by "recently consumed"?

The Chair: If we're going to ask a question about the amendment, we should have the amendment officially moved.

I'll give a copy to the minister, as we seem to have the copies here.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member.

I think, at this point, I will move the amendment, which is in my name, to amend clause 4.

[CLAUSE 4, by adding the underlined text as shown:

Direction given by police officer

4 If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person is consuming or has recently consumed an illegal substance in an area or place described in section 3, the police officer may direct the person to do one or both of the following:

(a) cease consuming an illegal substance in the area or place;

(b) leave the area or place.]

[5:55 p.m.]

The Chair: The amendment has been moved. I'm assuming the member is still asking the question on the now moved amendment.

Member, please.

On the amendment.

E. Sturko: Thanks. Sorry about that.

Yes. Could the minister please speak more to what is defined by "recently"? What is recent?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question.

It would be in terms of police receiving a call about something taking place. At the same time, it also would be part and parcel of the training as to what recency is.

What I can tell you is it would be…. It's not going to be five or six hours later. It would be in response to a call. Police, in terms of their training, would have an understanding of what recency is. Is that actually a word?

E. Sturko: Just based on knowledge of policing, I would say that a five-hour delay in getting to…. Something that would be a code 4 call or ranked fairly low, probably, in police priorities to attend could be five or six hours later. So it might be helpful to have more clarification on recency.

For example, if it's someone that is attending a park on a regular basis that is often seen consuming by people who are using that park…. "Oh, they used yesterday." That's recent. "I saw them last night. Now they're back this morning. They were using drugs in the park last night."

Would that be considered recent?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It's a combination of factors. What is happening and how the call is phoned in and what police are hearing is, in fact, taking place. There's also case law that guides what "recently" means. Along with that is going to be common sense. Police will be applying the legislation.

[6:00 p.m.]

I think all of those things are going to contribute, in individual situations, as to what has happened when police are called about the public drug use that this legislation contemplates.

E. Sturko: Thank you for the response.

If there's a group of people present, but only one is witnessed consuming illegal substances by police, can the police direct the entire group to leave, or can they only direct that one person who is directly seen consuming that substance?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It would be the person who is consuming or is believed to have been consuming.

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

E. Sturko: Thank you for that response.

We've been through this, but I'm going to ask one more time in relation to this clause, so that later, when I go back to check out Hansard, it's in with the clause 4 stuff. What type of consideration has been done with regard to any administrative penalty?

I gave a long monologue before about administrative penalties. I won't do it again. But I do feel strongly that it would be important to follow models in other countries where administrative processes have been used as a tool to compel people to things like community courts and dissuasion courts. Did the government consider this type of administrative process with regard to this legislation?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question, and I appreciate the discussion that we had when we talked about this in the other section. I'll try and condense my response as well.

We didn't consider involuntary treatment in the development of this bill. Our focus has been on voluntary treatment. That is the focus that the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has been pursuing, working with the experts around that. What the member is talking about is not contemplated by this piece of legislation.

E. Sturko: In the absence, though, of an administrative penalty — and again, just to clarify for the purposes of having it on Hansard in the same spot — a regulatory penalty or an administrative penalty doesn't necessarily have to mean involuntary treatment or involuntary medical services. But it can compel people, for example, to meet face to face with someone who then will offer services and information on how a person may, for example, seek treatment or get Sublocade or get other opioid agonist therapies.

In the absence of the administrative penalty, does that mean that ultimately, police are only left with the criminal penalty options for deterrence?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I'd make this observation. The practice of police even before this has not been to criminalize, in what we're talking about. It's been to hand out resource cards.

[6:05 p.m.]

It then comes back to what we were talking about. It's being able to gauge and refer and all of those things. I understand what the member's talking about. We got into quite the discussion about other jurisdictions.

I'll just say that the approach that's being taken is based on what we're hearing here in British Columbia. I won't go into all the things about other jurisdictions, different populations, demographics and all of those things that we went through. But that is very much the approach that we have been taking. We have worked with police on this legislation, responding to what they see is the ability, basically, to move people on. That's what we've got before us.

E. Sturko: On October 5, the minister stated: "If a situation developed into something much more serious, then other laws come into play. We've been clear. This is not about a criminal issue. This is about getting people to an appropriate place, getting them into the services. And that's the approach police have asked for. That's what they said they want, and that's what we're doing." Can he please advise what other laws he was referring to in this quote?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It would depend on the kind of situation that was occurring. It could be, for example, causing a disturbance. There are laws around that, so it would depend on the situation that's occurring.

E. Sturko: I just have a couple of questions left on clause 4. Thank you for that response.

As the minister said, it's not a criminal issue. We need people to be able to get help right away, but there's no compelling reason…. There's no compelling them in this legislation, just simply a mechanism for police to move them on. So how will government ensure that this legislation doesn't just shuffle things and hide the issue of drug use from the immediate public eye? Can you explain. Where is the deliberate and direct connection to services that this will enable?

Hon. M. Farnworth: That relates to what we have also talked about in the course of this debate, all the other areas that different ministries or government are focusing on in terms of expanding treatment options and expanding overdose prevention sites and on supportive housing and complex care and all of those other things. Police then have the ability not only in terms of the legislation to move, but to provide additional information for where services are available or resources that people can access.

E. Sturko: Thank you for that. This will be my final question on clause 4. I think that this legislation really highlights that our province currently is not engaged in a recovery-oriented system of care. A recovery-oriented system of care is one where all legislation…. Every ministry is working together in a concerted effort to help move people into wellness, to help them get the services that they need, to have a deliberate connection where every door is an open door. I've heard the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions say that. "Every door should be an open door."

Well, here we have a door, a conduit to contacting people through police, but this door is not open. There is not a place in every community to send people, with services like overdose prevention sites and safe consumption sites or even agonist clinics.

[6:10 p.m.]

I know this is not in the Ministry of Public Safety, but that's part of the problem. The ministries are siloed in their approach to the opioid crisis. We need to be building a true recovery-oriented system of care that includes….

When we look at legislation like this, we should be looking through the lens of recovery. We should be looking through the lens of true life-saving, one that has purpose built within the legislation that does find ways of connecting people with intent to services, to housing, to mental health treatment if that's what they need, to counselling, just even to provide healthy social context for people. It's a missed opportunity.

We do need to look at ways in which we…. Even in making something that's…. This bill didn't have many clauses. It's not a complex piece of legislation. It's not 600 clauses, but there's a lot that could have been added that would have been value-added in terms of us addressing the opioid crisis.

It really is…. I hope that maybe it's food for thought. We need to…. When we're going to tackle this crisis, we need to create a true recovery-oriented system of care. It can't only be that health care is the recovery-oriented system of care. All of the ministries need to work in a very deliberate way to make sure that everything, every door is that open door.

My final question is: why has the government chosen not to adopt our plan, Better Is Possible, which is a true recovery-oriented system of care, make treatment free for all British Columbians and to make sure that every door is an open door that leads to wellness and recovery for British Columbians?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member, and I appreciate the questions that she has been asking during the course of this debate.

I would just say this. We have been working on building a system of care across ministries. There's a lot of collaboration between my ministry, Mental Health and Addictions, Social Development Ministry as well as Health.

That work has been underway. It's why we've made the investments that we have done. As I said, $1 billion in this year's budget, and we are building that system of care. We have more work to do, but we are absolutely determined to do that.

I think we all want to get to the right place. But I think it's important to make it clear that the ministries are working not at cross-purposes and not in silos, but they are working together, and we are going to continue to do that to deal with the challenges that we face around the toxic drug crisis that we have in this province.

S. Furstenau: I'm just going to Robert's Rules this a little bit. We are still speaking to the amendment, yes?

In the amendment, it adds the line "or has recently consumed an illegal substance." My question to the minister is: how is it that enforcement officers are supposed to be able to determine that?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I'm glad we're going by parliamentary rules. It is very…. The answer to the question is…. It's fact-specific and police are experienced in how that works and what that means.

[6:15 p.m.]

S. Furstenau: I really don't think it is that specific. I point to the report that was done on racism in the health care system in which a lot of people reported that their medical conditions were interpreted to be substance use–caused, particularly if they're Indigenous or Black.

Is there not a risk, by adding this, that there could be treatment of people who are suffering from medical conditions — that they would be treated as though they had recently consumed a substance, given that police officers, enforcement officers don't have health care training? What can look like harm from a toxic drug or an overdose could also be another health condition.

We are now at risk of people who are suffering from a health emergency, non-substance use–related, being treated as though it is substance use–related and just told to move on.

Hon. M. Farnworth: It's a combination. It's on reasonable grounds, and that can be a combination of factors. It could be a combination of factors such as paraphernalia. It could be the case of a witness having witnessed something. It could be a number of factors, but it's not just a case of going up and saying: "Yes, you are." No. There have to be reasonable grounds, and there has to be…. Police are trained in what those reasonable grounds are.

S. Furstenau: Not to be picky, but generally, laws are meant to be pretty clear. I don't see on…. Well, I do see: "…has reasonable grounds to believe a person is consuming or has recently consumed an illegal substance…." I'm going to speak to this by introducing an amendment after we've finished with this amendment, so I'll leave it there. But I do think that this is a problematic amendment.

A. Olsen: In the what-we-heard report of In Plain Sight, the Indigenous peoples survey, 26 percent of the people surveyed, talking about widespread and ongoing stereotyping and racism leading to discrimination at the point of care in a health care system, that should be able to determine, using a similar set of parameters as what the minister is claiming police are going to be using, in terms of the discretion that they're using, the type of care that they're providing…. In the case of police, it'll be the type of public safety response, so-called public safety response, that they're going to administer based on their expertise.

In our health care system, 26 percent of the respondents came back saying that they always assumed that they were drunk or asked about substance abuse. More than one in four times that an Indigenous person accessed our health care system, there was an assumption that that person was intoxicated. So pardon me for not being entirely convinced by the minister's vague response that a police officer is going to be able to determine based on fact.

Can the minister respond with something that's more than: "Just trust us. It's going to be fine"?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I just want to make a couple of points. First off, this is not about intoxication. This is about use, and there's a difference between use and intoxication.

[6:20 p.m.]

The other aspect I want to make is that — this has been clear as well — part and parcel of the new law is training in terms of how the law will be applied. That's been clear from the discussion also. This isn't about criminalizing people. This is not about punishing people. It is about being able to deal with certain situations and getting people to move on. That is what it's about. Police have been dealing with that.

We are cognizant of the issues that the member has raised in terms of a greater impact on Indigenous people, for example, by policing and by a whole range of areas in our society, whether it's our health care system…. So there is focus on ensuring that that is not the case, and that's part and parcel of the training that goes along with the introduction of the act and how it's intended to work.

A. Olsen: I'll just say this. It was one thing for the minister to move an amendment that was going to disproportionately affect…. In this case, I'm talking about Indigenous people — 33 percent of the homeless population, 2 percent of the population in British Columbia. Experience of being displaced from territories, displaced from home, and in urban areas where they've been displaced to. It was one thing for him to propose legislation that was going to further displace those individuals.

It's another thing for him to move an amendment, after the legislation has been there, to say that, further, the police are allowed to make an assumption about whether or not somebody has used drugs, and that would be a reason why they could then be displaced.

The day before yesterday, my colleague asked the minister if he believed that these people who are going to be impacted by this are part of the public. When all it takes is a police officer to make an assumption, or use their discretion, that an individual used in a public place, whether that officer witnessed it or not…. All the discretion is in their hands, according to this amendment. Now that person can be harassed out of a place even if they didn't consume. It's just them being there.

This amendment actually makes what I deem to be a callous piece of legislation that much more callous. This amendment hasn't been justified by the minister — just brought in after the… Still drafting the legislation as we go.

Can the minister explain how this doesn't make this situation more callous for folks who…? Now, with the discretion on the police after this amendment gets passed, it will only be that they'll have to make the assumption, or they can use their discretion, to determine that this person recently used.

That will be enough in order to "move them along," as the language is that we're using in this. Just move the public along from public places that they're entitled to be in, based on a series of facts that the minister didn't…. The minister explained that the police know it. I don't think the public know what those facts are or what all of those determinants are. It was just brushed off in this response.

Hon. M. Farnworth: That's not true, hon. Member.

It is not an assumption, and I have never used the word "assumption." So for you to continue to say, "assumption, assumption, assumption," when you know very well that in my responses to date, I have not used the word "assumption…."

I've used the term "reasonable grounds," and reasonable grounds has jurisprudence applied to it. It's not a case of "I think you are" or discretion; it is reasonable grounds.

There are things that go along in terms of what "reasonable grounds" means. It is not an assumption, and it is not about coming along and saying: "Oh, I want you moving along because I'm assuming something."

There are reasonable grounds around use, which I have outlined already in a previous question. It could be, for example, paraphernalia, or you had witnesses to what was taking place.

[6:25 p.m.]

To say that it's an assumption, that you come along and just automatically can do that, is not correct. I just want to make that clear on the record.

A. Olsen: I'll take my seat here.

I'll just say that if a member of the public is holding paraphernalia but hasn't used…. The minister has been so assertive in this that it's about use. If all it takes, then, according to what the minister just said, is paraphernalia and evidence from, maybe in a different scenario, a witness — all it takes is paraphernalia for there to be reasonable grounds — then I don't think the minister has done himself any favours.

S. Furstenau: I want to raise a point. Just now we heard from the minister that there will be training for police officers around this legislation coming in. Training, I believe, would have a cost attached.

On Monday, when I asked the minister about a cost analysis of this legislation and what kinds of costs would be associated with policing and the justice system, he indicated…. I think his words were: "There won't be additional costs. This is just a conversation."

Can the minister make it clear whether or not there is going to be training specific to this legislation? What cost is anticipated for that training?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The training comes out of existing ministerial resources and will be made available to police. Police also have training resources for when there are changes to laws taking place.

Amendment approved.

On clause 4 as amended.

S. Furstenau: I have a proposed amendment to clause 4. It would add a section (2), under 4(1).

[CLAUSE 4, by adding the underlined text as shown:

4 (1) If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person is consuming or has recently consumed an illegal substance in an area or place described in section 3, the police officer may direct the person to do one or both of the following:

(a) cease consuming an illegal substance in the area or place;

(b) leave the area or place.

(2) If a police officer directs a person pursuant to subsection (1), the police officer must direct the person to immediately available emergency services.]

On the amendment.

S. Furstenau: The reason I add this proposed amendment is, as we learned today…. Yet another report out from the coroner. The illicit drug supply is deadly.

If we are engaging with people who have been using the very toxic and very deadly drug supply, there needs to be a recognition that those people may well be in need of health services. With a lack of safe consumption sites, people are making the best choices that they can on where to consume illegal substances. They're not ideal, but people are trying not to die. Unhoused people with substance dependencies simply have limited options on where they can go to safely consume.

If this government is truly focused on ensuring that public spaces are safe for the public — and I remind the minister of his agreement two days ago that people who use drugs are still members of the public — then the onus is on law enforcement to provide safe consumption sites where people can access support services or to desist on moving them from public and shared spaces. Simply put, if the government wishes to not see people using drugs in public spaces, they have a responsibility to connect people with safe consumption sites and health services.

We cannot simply pretend that people do not exist. These are people in our community. This amendment, therefore, proposes that if a police officer wishes to use the discretion made available to them under this legislation, then the police officer has an obligation to connect that person with an alternative consumption site or health care. Importantly, this amendment requires that the site must be immediately available. It must be open at the time, it must be within a reasonable distance, and it must have the capacity to support the individual.

[6:30 p.m.]

If this bill is truly about the safety of British Columbians, if it's truly about public safety, then I'm sure that all parties will agree that this is a necessary amendment, one that is focused on ensuring the safety of all people.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the sentiment of the member in proposing this amendment. I think there are a number of issues that are problematic in the amendment, not the least of which is in terms of the police having the actual authority to direct someone to a facility.

I can also tell the member that police do assist people, helping them to get to help if they need it — whether it's by police or by emergency health services — directing them and letting them know what services are available, to an overdose prevention site or what community services are available to assist them.

They have all those things, and they do that now. They do that as part of their job. But in terms of the ability to actually say, "You must go here," that's something that they don't have the authority to do.

Therefore we cannot support this amendment.

The Chair: Just for the members' information, the amendment is in order, and we'll be sending a copy out to everyone online as soon as we can.

A. Olsen: Thank you to the minister for the response. I recognize the challenge that he raised specifically to this amendment: about the police's inability to direct people to useful health services, and that there is a limitation to that. Of course, this bill is creating no limitation for the police to direct those people to anywhere else, totally undetermined.

I guess the member for Surrey South did some good work to identify some locations that are not considered places where children frequent or places that the minister considers inappropriate places for people to be using these illicit substances that there's an exemption for from the federal government.

I think that it is important to put some context around that. I respect the minister stating that perhaps the government can't force them to go to get the adequate services that they need for their health care, but they can go literally anywhere else.

This discussion kind of reminds me of that skit — I think it was Australian — about the oil tanker spill and the environment, and the solution was to just tow the problem outside the environment. Of course, it's a great satire piece: "As long as this problem is tucked neatly away, outside of view, that would be fine."

Actually, that's what the goal of this act is: to move this from the public view. As we've just learned, there's no real ability for the government to deliver the health care services that these folks need.

[6:35 p.m.]

You know, there's an incredible amount, an outpouring, of love and of sadness for the passing of Matthew Perry, who didn't want to be known for the popular TV show that he was on and that made him famous.

In honour of that, I'm not even going to mention it here, because what he wanted to be known for was the work that he did to positively impact by providing the services to people who are suffering an affliction — addiction. That's what he wanted to be remembered for when he died. There's a very poignant clip from an article.

He didn't want to be the guy that's towing the problem outside the environment. That's what this government is doing with this bill, and that's what this government is doing with this situation.

I think that whether the government is going to support this or not, this amendment serves a very useful purpose in illustrating exactly what this government is doing in this bill: trying to remove this problem from their political field and trying to remove this problem from the visual field of British Columbians so that it doesn't have to be seen anymore; removing it outside the environment rather than doing what Matthew Perry was wanting in his life's work, at the end of his life — to actually help people.

S. Furstenau: Just to make one more case for this amendment, has the minister considered the implication of having people who are in the midst of consuming an illegal substance, as it says in this clause — or having recently consumed — being removed from an area that is in the public view to an area that is outside of the public view, and the heightened risk of death that now exists for that individual?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It's not about moving it out of public view. It's about moving it from inappropriate places where the public gather — where families gather with kids. That's what it's about. It comes down to, as I've talked about and could go on….

It's about a balance. That's what the legislation is about. It's about ensuring that we continue to build the services that are required, which we are doing. It's all of those things. But it's not about going: "We're bringing this in to put people out of view."

S. Furstenau: But that is exactly what this amendment proposes, which is to ensure that there is an appropriate place for people to go and be brought. So this is an acknowledgment and recognition of what the minister has been saying all along through this whole debate, which is that a safe consumption site, an overdose prevention site, is an appropriate place.

This amendment indicates that that is the intention of this legislation, which I've heard over and over from the minister. That's what an appropriate location is for people to use substances: a safe consumption site. The amendment puts that in.

[6:40 p.m.]

It doesn't exist anywhere else in the legislation, yet we've heard it over and over again from the minister. In this way, it shows the commitment of the government that what we've been hearing — the words — are put into action, that communities will have these sites, these spaces available — appropriate spaces, as the minister has said many times. That's what this amendment could help to achieve.

A. Olsen: He didn't answer the question that my colleague asked around the liability that might exist if an officer moves somebody from a location and that person then passes away and is not visible to anybody. Then they have a drug poisoning. Has the ministry looked into whether there's any liability in that situation?

Hon. M. Farnworth: We do not believe there will be any liability. In fact, that's not a concern that has been raised in any of the consultations that we've had either with police or with health experts.

Amendment negatived.

S. Furstenau: In the discussion on the previous amendment and the discussion, generally, about the interactions between police and Indigenous people and people of colour in this province, I just want to put onto the record the response of the Premier a couple of weeks ago in question period to this question, about whether there is racism in law enforcement in B.C.

The Premier responded:

"You know, the issue, and it's a serious one, of the experiences that people from visible minority communities have with police is one that is widely recognized. The member's attempt to make light of that, an issue that has been recognized by police, by Police Complaint Commissioners, by public inquiries…. This was an issue that raised its head in Vancouver when a judge who was stopped on the seawall by police happened to be a Black man.

"The experience of Indigenous youth in their interactions with police that lead them to have a reduced relationship of trust is a serious one, because Indigenous people are more likely to be victims of serious crime."

I wanted to add that to the record, because I think that the response of the minister to my colleague's questions about this didn't really recognize that not only have we had multiple reports, including In Plain Sight, but it is a well-understood and thoroughly recognized reality that there is systemic racism in policing and the justice system in this province.

That is not to say it's the fault of the minister, but I think it's very important to recognize that and that legislation like this can actually exacerbate and reinforce what already exists in terms of racism when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous people and people of colour in this province.

[6:45 p.m.]

A. Olsen: I have had so many meetings, maybe a half-dozen meetings, with the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and his senior staff about the disproportionate attention that Indigenous people get from policing in this province. The scale and scope of the problem that exists is almost inexplicable.

Chelsea Poorman and Carsyn Mackenzie Seaweed are two cases in point. They have been the source of many meetings that I've requested in discussions that I've requested with the ministry about how policing in this province fails Indigenous people, and how, before investigations are complete — indeed, in some cases, before investigations had even begun — policing agencies in this province are claiming that there's no foul play involved.

Even before they know what has happened in those cases, public statements diminish the individual that was the victim of an unfortunate end to their life. I can only put it that way because these cases are still outstanding and still being investigated today. I raised the issue around Chelsea Poorman, especially that….

How can anybody have any confidence in a police service, once they've said that they have no idea what's happened, but they're confident that there's no foul play involved? Yet that police service continued to investigate that, even with the reality that there's this incredible pressure on that police service to not be seen as jumping to conclusions earlier. The conflict of interest in that situation is almost…. It's unbearable.

Again, this past summer, at a soccer tournament that my daughter was playing soccer in, just a few hundred metres, a young girl's body was found. Even though the RCMP have apologized for jumping to make a determination about what happened before they had any clue…. "No foul play."

I get it that the minister has a period of time here in which he has to respond to the legislation that's being created here. He's got to respond to the tough questions that are being asked. He's got to provide answers for them.

It is taking, and the minister knows this, an incredible toll on me to continue to have to be the person that is raising this. It's taking an incredible toll on our families, who are demanding better. That's the reason why it is so difficult to just allow for the answers that have been given, the tools that are being handed over, the discretion that is being handed over to police agencies that have demonstrated an inability to talk about systemic racism within their organizations. They've demonstrated an inclination to jump to conclusions in their investigations.

[6:50 p.m.]

The minister can be frustrated with me for raising these issues in this debate and can hang the discussion on this on a few words here or there. The fact is that Indigenous people in this province aren't given the benefit of the doubt. Impoverished people in this province are not given the benefit of the doubt. Impoverished Indigenous people, homeless people that so disproportionately outweigh every other demographic within the homeless population, displaced from their home communities, displaced from their territories, are the last people in our society that are given the benefit of the doubt.

A bill like this comes, which is the result of a complete failure to deliver the social services that are needed for people to not be homeless, to have just a basic form of shelter, an absolute basic form of shelter. We can't deliver that. They have nowhere else to go, and we create a law that basically pushes them to somewhere else, anywhere else that's appropriate.

Then, to have suggestions that we're just supposed to take the word for it because it's based on fact…. Yet the fact of the matter is that my relatives, the Indigenous people in this province…. There are all sorts of assumptions about us that are made in policing, Minister.

I feel like this is just a band-aid covering the symptom of the problem that this government has failed to respond to in every way other than through rhetoric. This is not going to make the situation better.

This gives more tools. I'm just going to use the demographic of Indigenous people. This just gives police more tools to harass us off to the next location that's indescribable, to the next location that is appropriate and undefinable. That is the experience of Indigenous people for the entire history of this province. That might be the reason why groups like the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs don't support this legislation.

I've asked this government to do what they know they should be doing, rather than creating laws that push the majority of these people, push Indigenous people, further into the margins and make vulnerable people more vulnerable to death. Clearly, this is the approach that we're going to be taking, and it saddens me that despite all of our commitments, this is the best we've got in British Columbia.


Clause 4 as amended approved.

Title approved.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 6:54 p.m.

The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.

Reporting of Bills


Bill 34, Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act, reported complete with amendments, to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today.

Committee of the Whole (Section A), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.

Hon. M. Farnworth moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved.

Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until Monday, 10 a.m. That would be November 6.

The House adjourned at 6:55 p.m.


NOTICE: This is a DRAFT transcript of debate in one sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. This transcript is subject to corrections and will be replaced by the final, official Hansard report. Use of this transcript, other than in the legislative precinct, is not protected by parliamentary privilege, and public attribution of any of the debate as transcribed here could entail legal liability.