One of the organizers of the Anita Place Tent City is calling for the RCMP to scale back their response to overdose calls in order to ensure people feel safe when they call 911.
“There needs to be a clear policy direction from the RCMP not to attend overdose calls,” said Ivan Drury with the Alliance Against Displacement.
The Alliance made the demand after an opioid overdose late Monday at about 11:30 p.m., at the tent city on St. Anne Avenue in downtown Maple Ridge.
The man was revived with a Narcan shot by other residents in the camp, but then was arrested on drug trafficking allegations and later released.
“This will make people at the camp … afraid to call if their friend or family overdoses,” Drury said.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read strongly disagreed and said police will still go to the camp.
“We will absolutely monitor the situation in the camp and drug trafficking is not OK at any time … ever,” Read said.
The city is aware of the effects of drug trafficking on vulnerable people in the camp and on the city, she added.
She’s worried that Drury’s demand may divide the community.
“We will continue to make sure that the public is safe,” Read said.
“How dare he make these demands?”
Drury held a news conference Thursday afternoon at Ridge Meadows RCMP.
The Alliance asked in a news release that when someone is overdosing, “calling 911 will bring health assistance for overdose victims, not arrests and criminal charges.”
He added many overdoses take place in people’s homes and many don’t call 911 because they’re afraid of being charged.
During the two and a half months the tent city has been running there have been five overdoses, Drury said.
An RCMP spokesman said police don’t respond to every overdose call but will show up when requested by paramedics.
Police were not called Monday, but stopped by when they saw an ambulance at the camp.
In a release issued Thursday, Ridge Meadows RCMP say there is an ongoing Controlled Drugs and Substances Act investigation into possession for the purpose of trafficking.
“The nature of the arrest noted above is not protected under the provisions of the recently passed Good Samaritan Overdose Act,” RCMP said. The act exempts people from simple possession charges if they call 911 because of an overdose.