Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt says he came out of a discussion with BC’s housing minister with mixed feelings.
David Eby, B.C.’s Attorney General and Minister responsible for housing, met with Cranbrook’s city council on Monday night to discuss homelessness and crime in the community.
“He talked a lot about what the provincial government is doing in the budget. We all knew what the budget was about, we looked at it when it came out,” said Pratt.
“We were looking more for specific opportunities for Cranbrook to deal with the homelessness and crime, so we were a little disappointed in that. On a positive note, we opened up some good dialogue now.”
During the meeting, Eby discussed various initiatives the provincial government has implemented or has plans for in the future.
“I do understand, quite unambiguously, that in Cranbrook, you’re seeing issues that many other communities are seeing, not just in our province, but across North America,” said Eby. “What I would like to do is open up a conversation with you at a provincial level to see how we can best support you in this.”
When asked about crime in the community, Eby said he and public safety minister Mike Farnworth are working with the urban mayors caucus to find possible solutions.
“We’re in a situation where there are clear federal directions and law about what bail conditions should be and what it means when someone breaches those conditions. I think that is what people are seeing and concerned about,” said Eby.
Eby said 74 per cent of cases in the Cranbrook area were approved to court in 2020/21 and 73 per cent in 2021/22, but six per cent are still in progress, so the number for 2021/22 could change.
There were 1,288 reports to crown counsel in 2020/21, with 993 approved to court,309 no charge submissions, 23 went to alternative measures, 17 went back to police for more work and nine remain in progress.
“There has been a marked change in people’s perceptions of safety, as well as chronic property offences, repeated theft issues by a small group of individuals, often with mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Eby. “We’re not going to, and don’t wish to, frankly, overturn federal law and lock everybody up. Instead, what I would like are constructive approaches to deal with B.C.’s issues.”
Eby also cleared up a rumour regarding the B.C. government’s approach to homelessness.
“There is no program to move people who are homeless, or are otherwise mentally ill or addicted, around the province. That’s not something that’s happening,” said Eby.
Pratt said city council hopes to meet with Minister Eby again in the near future.
“We have what we think are some solutions pertaining to our particular situation. So now we feel that we have his ear on it, we can make some headway,” said Pratt.