An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
ONLY ONE VOTE separated the “concentration camp” proposal for the homeless from success this week when it came in front of Kamloops City council.
Voting in favour of establishing a complex-care treatment centre for street-challenged people were Councillors Denis Walsh, Arjun Singh, Mike O’Reilly and Bill Sarai.
Opposed were Councillors Dale Bass, Kathy Sinclair, Dieter Dudy and Sadie Hunter and Mayor Ken Christian.
The unfortunate “concentration camp” description was, of course, provided earlier by Bass, who had already declared her opposition before it even came to the floor for debate. Her comment is illustrative of the misunderstanding of the proposal.
Bass didn’t reprise her “concentration camp” remark at the meeting, but said during the debate that she voted against it because of the costs of providing services at the site of the former Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre and because BC Housing probably doesn’t have an appetite for it. She added a confusing comment on the issue of mandatory attendance.
Dudy said there are many questions that need answering, such as who would build and pay for it, what services would be available, and who would determine length of stay.
Christian based his objections on the mention of Honour Ranch, a facility near Ashcroft that serves uniformed people suffering from PTSD. It’s not similar, he said.
Sinclair based her opposition on the fact the idea didn’t come from experts, whereas Hunter — like Christian — was troubled by the mention of Honour Ranch and suggested the motion showed a misunderstanding of mental illness.
So what if:
- the motion wasn’t strictly tied to the Rayleigh property but stated “or any other suitable property” and that the concept was based on providing a “wide range of support services”? Well, actually, it said exactly that.
- BC Housing was asked whether it would participate? Yep, the motion said that, too.
- questions about who would contribute and what services would be available were part of the proposed study? Again, that’s what the motion proposed.
- experts were consulted, not just one but several? Sure, of course that would be done.
- other comparable facilities were looked at other than Honour House and VisionQuest, such as the redevelopment of part of Riverview at the Coast as an addiction treatment centre and mental wellness facility, with the involvement of BC Housing?
Here’s the point. None of the reasons given for voting against the motion holds water. Instead of searching for reasons to oppose the motion, if any one of those five councillors had looked at it from the perspective of searching for something better than the failed system we have now, the motion would have succeeded.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.