Sunday November 20, 2022 | VANCOUVER, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
A coordinated approach to policing and mental health across agencies and governments is the approach to reducing crime in BC communities, as outlined today by Premier David Eby.
There will be “new coordinated response teams” as part of “breaking the cycle of repeat offending”.
This was Eby first full press conference since his swearing-in two days ago.
In addressing root causes, he wants the “break the cycle of repeating offending”, which includes “freeing up police to focus on crime” and not the challenges of mental health in the people who are apprehended.
Premier Eby wants the public to feel safer as this program rolls out. “That feeling is what I’m looking for, that we’re heading in the right direction,” Eby said today during the media session held outdoors this morning in Vancouver.
This is part of addressing repeat offending and improving public confidence in the justice system, which includes creating more opportunities to divert people from the criminal justice system.
Eby said that he has spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal cabinet members (including Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino) about a need for federal rules to change, rules that have allowed repeat offenders to be released on bail.
The Safer Communities Action Plan announced today complements the BC-led action with other provinces and territories to pressure the federal government to address the consequences of changes to the federal bail system that have made it more difficult to hold people who commit repeat, violent offences in custody while they are waiting for trial.
Address Indigenous over-representation:
Eby also wants to see this new initiative address the “over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system”, he said today.
Three ministries pulled this together:
Eby’s announcement today was outdoors in Vancouver, backed by the Ministers of three ministries who (with their teams) worked “over time” to get this announcement ready: Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, Attorney General Murray Rankin, and Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson. None of those ministers spoke at the microphone today, and Eby took all media questions.
Ultimate delivery of the new coordinated system is assigned to the BC Public Safety Ministry, said Eby today. “We will take the role of coordination. We will be the coordinating agency, where there is none,” said Eby.
Eby says the recommendations from the LePard-Butler investigation into repeat offending and violent stranger attacks’ 28 recommendations were released on Sept. 21, 2022 (full report was made public on Oct. 1, 2022) were taken very seriously. Eby said that (then) Premier Horgan and cabinet were shocked to hear what was going on in communities.
Safer Communities Action Plan:
The Province is making changes to help keep British Columbians safe, launching a new Safer Communities Action Plan with immediate steps that will strengthen enforcement to keep those who commit repeat violent offences off our streets, and strengthen services to build safe, healthy communities for everyone.
The new measures respond to a rise in repeat violent offending linked to unintended impacts of federal law changes and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, and increased mental-health and addiction challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the toxic drug crisis.
“Being compassionate, concerned and taking action on mental-health and addiction issues does not mean that we have to accept repeated criminal behaviour or violence,” said Premier David Eby. “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. We are making changes to bring key groups together to keep people and communities safe – ensuring those who commit violent acts face consequences, and creating as many opportunities as possible for them to address mental-health and addiction issues to break the cycle of a life in and out of jail.”
The Safer Communities Action Plan lays out concrete steps at the provincial level to make communities safer under two tracks: enforcement, and intervention services. Each initiative is structured to improve co-ordination between law enforcement, community service organizations, justice system actors, health providers and people who are recovering from addiction and mental-health challenges in a collaborative, coordinated approach to address the issues people are seeing in their communities.
New measures announced today November 20, 2022 include:
- launching new repeat violent offender coordinated response teams, made up of police, and dedicated prosecutors and probation officers;
- expanding mental-health crisis response teams into more communities so police can focus on crime, and people in crisis are met early on by health-care workers and community members;
- taking the next steps in creating a new model of addictions care at St. Paul’s Hospital so people can seamlessly move from crisis response in the emergency room, to detox, to treatment services, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care, with plans to expand this model in the future;
- opening 10 new Indigenous Justice Centres to provide culturally appropriate support for Indigenous Peoples involved in the justice system to address the root causes of their involvement in the system and help them break the cycle;
- going after the houses, cars and luxury goods of high-level organized criminals who profit on misery by introducing “unexplained wealth order” legislation in spring 2023; and
- building public confidence in the prosecution system with new direction from the attorney general to prosecutors to implement a clear and understandable approach to bail for repeat violent offenders within the existing federal law. The new policy will take effect on Nov. 22, 2022.
Includes brain injury alliance:
Today’s news release from the Office of the Premier outlined that the plan includes other co-ordination measures, such as better support for people with acquired brain injuries through overdose or other injury – with a focus on those involved in the criminal justice system – through increased funding for the Brain Injury Alliance.
Also: more integrated information sharing between justice and community partners to strengthen case management and expanding the use of technology to guide police in gathering, and sharing information with doctors and nurses during mental-health crisis situations.
Community safety recommendations:
These actions align with recommendations from a number of reports on community safety, including the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, the First Nations Justice Strategy and the Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence.
The Safer Communities Action Plan complements the BC-led action with other provinces and territories to pressure the federal government to address the consequences of changes to the federal bail system that have made it more difficult to hold people who commit repeat, violent offences in custody while they are waiting for trial.
Housing, per se, was not specifically mentioned in today’s livestreamed announcement.
But in the news release, it was stated that the action plan also builds on work already underway by the provincial government to help break the cycle of repeat offending and build safe and healthy communities, including complex-care housing, new and expanded community transition teams to better support people who are leaving correctional facilities, and funding to support work by the BC First Nations Justice Council to develop better, culturally appropriate supports for Indigenous people in the legal system.
Overall approach to safety:
Since 2017, the BC NDP government has taken steps to make BC communities safer by taking action to stop the money laundering and organized crime that fuels the toxic drug crisis, providing resources to police, reversing cuts to sexual assault centres, increasing crime prevention and victim support services funding, and record investments in housing, mental health and poverty reduction.
Sticking to 2024 election date:
Again today, Premier David Eby referred to having two years to make significant changes (in this case, how BC handles crime). During his swearing-in on November 18 he said he would be sticking to the October 2024 scheduled BC provincial election date.
This is of course gives more time for the NDP to shore up another round of achievements by their government, but also gives the BC Liberals time to organize their campaign as well.
Premier Horgan has stepped down from being Premier due to health reasons, saying in recent months that he could “not take on another six years” at the pace that the Premier’s job requires.
Cost of living efforts: BC Hydro bill credit & BC Affordability Credit (November 18, 2022)
Eby sticking to Oct 2024 scheduled election date (November 18, 2022)
David Eby sworn in as 37th premier (November 18, 2022)
===== GOVERNMENT LINKS:
Safer Communities Action Plan:
The full repeat offender investigation report, as well as the BC First Nations Justice Council’s submission to the investigation panel:
BC First Nations Justice Strategy:
Revised bail policy (effective Nov. 22, 2022), visit:
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a professional news portal at islandsocialtrends.ca . Fully online since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from previous print publications in the west shore: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Since 2008, editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to the news of the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC and national news impacts.