Pubdate: Sat, 18 Jan 2003
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Times Colonist
Author: Robert Garfat


The battle against street drug abuse in downtown Victoria has once again 
taken an ugly turn.

In their zealous pursuit of hard-drug users, some Victoria police are 
targeting transient homeless youth, confiscating their possessions and 
refusing to return them until a fine is paid.

While a $70 fine may seem inconsequential to the average working person, 
for a homeless person with no income, it is often unattainable.

Business owners represented by the Chamber of Commerce and Victoria City 
Council would seem to support this persecution of the homeless poor. A 
straw poll taken of many unaligned small downtown businesses indicates that 
they do not support such draconian treatment of our city's poorest citizens.

Many "core" business owners perceive panhandling as a problem, but often 
panhandlers are not hard drug users. If a panhandler is leaning against or 
sitting on a backpack containing all of their worldly possessions, there is 
a better than good chance that they are panhandling for food, not drugs.

In our zeal to eradicate hard drug dealing and abuse on the downtown 
streets, we must not condone police abuse of truly homeless people who are 
trying to survive without a social safety net.

Homelessness and drug addiction are, for the most part, two separate problems.

Robert Garfat,


Dark Horse Books,

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