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Premier Eby takes action to keep people, communities safe | BC Gov News – BC Gov News

Premier David Eby
Email: [email protected]
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, co-ordinated approach to address the issues people are seeing in their communities. 
New measures announced include:
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, 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.
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 B.C.-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.
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.   
Since 2017, the government has taken steps to make B.C. 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. 
Quick Facts:
Learn More:
To read more about the Safer Communities Action Plan, visit:
https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/safer-communities
To read the full repeat offender investigation report, as well as the BC First Nations Justice Council's submission to the investigation panel, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Prolific_Offender_Report_BCFNJC_submission.pdf
To learn more about the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, visit:
https://bcfnjc.com/landing-page/justice-strategy/
To read the revised bail policy (effective Nov. 22, 2022), visit:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/criminal-justice/prosecution-service/crown-counsel-policy-manual/bai-1.pdf
Four backgrounders follow.
Jonathan Morris, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, B.C. Division, Victoria branch –
“We know when a person is experiencing a mental-health or substance use crisis, what they need and want, is the support from someone who knows what they are going through. That is the heart of the Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT) model. We are very excited to lead this transformation of crisis care with partners in British Columbia. Today marks a bold commitment by this government to support mental health for all. A community-led care response, informed by people with lived and living experience, operated by local organizations is part of the transformation we need.”
Chief Constable Adam Palmer, Vancouver Police Department –
“Better co-ordination, information sharing and transparency will lead to better outcomes and overall improvements in community safety and well-being. We support any initiative that improves safety and ensures people living with mental-health issues get the care they need.”
Jay Diell, clinical co-ordinator for Car 87/88, Vancouver –
“Car programs, which team up an officer with a mental-health professional, have helped many people in crisis. I’m thrilled this program is expanding to more communities across the province, so British Columbians can get the supports they need along with timely connections to appropriate services in the community." 
Ken Sim, mayor of Vancouver –
“Today’s announcement marks a significant step forward in addressing the ongoing challenges in Vancouver related to public safety, mental health and addictions. I applaud Premier Eby and the provincial government for their bold leadership and partnership in making these critical investments and policy changes. I look forward to continuing to work together to improve public safety outcomes and ensure the most-vulnerable members of our community have access to the support and care they need.”
Carol Lee, chair, Vancouver Chinatown Foundation –
“Chinatown is a historic and important part of our community, but the pandemic and an increase in crime have really had a negative impact on the heart of the Chinese community in Vancouver. I am so glad that the Province is taking action to help people trapped in a cycle of offending find the supports they need and strengthen enforcement so small businesses and neighbours alike can feel safer and continue to contribute to healthier communities.”
Kory Wilson, director, First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) –
“The BC First Nations Justice Council is very grateful to our new Premier, David Eby, who has committed to advance Strategy 4 of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, and has committed funding to establish 10 new Indigenous Justice Centres in B.C. The Indigenous justice centres are a cornerstone of the Justice Strategy and the solution to many public-safety issues our province and our communities are experiencing. Lifting up Indigenous people to lead this work for ourselves is the right approach: it aligns with B.C.’s commitment to implement the UN Declaration and has the potential to reverse decades of appalling statistics that speak to the growing overrepresentation of our people in the justice and child welfare systems. BCFNJC remains steadfast in our commitment to reforming colonial justice and child welfare systems, and today’s announcement is an enormous step in the right direction.”
Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, Commanding Officer of the BC RCMP, Surrey –
“Our police officers have seen first-hand the impacts and challenges of violent and repeat offenders, as well as mental health related calls. We are thankful that the Province has actioned a multi-agency approach that will bring the right people together to address the issues and ultimately strengthen our collective responses. These are complex issues that require more than enforcement, but also prevention, specifically care and support to those in need.” 
John Higenbottam, president, Brain Injury Alliance, Vancouver –
"People with different levels of acquired brain injuries struggle to find much-needed support services in the community. They are over-represented in the corrections system, homeless populations and people struggling with addiction. These individuals often have overlapping mental-health and substance-use challenges, requiring the highest level of support. The funding provided to the Brain Injury Alliance and brain injury associations across B.C. will go a long way to providing the specialized support that brain-injury survivors require."
Dr. Seonaid Nolan, Head, Interdepartmental Division of Addiction, St. Paul’s Hospital/Providence Health Care, Vancouver –
“This is a new and exciting approach to how we deliver addiction care that has the potential to transform the treatment and recovery journey for British Columbians. I look forward to sharing more about this innovative pilot in the weeks ahead.”
Chief Constable Del Manak, Victoria Police Department –
“Our police officers are dealing with the impacts that mental health and addictions have on our communities on a daily basis, including challenges with violent, repeat offenders. I support initiatives that enhance social services, connect people to the services they need and prioritize public safety. I look forward to working with government on our shared vision toward community safety and well-being.”
Andrew Van Eden, community safety manager, Tsleil Waututh Nation 
“The North Shore of Vancouver is home to many diverse populations, including local First Nations communities from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and other Indigenous communities from across Canada. Systemic issues stemming from the traumas of the Residential School system, mistrust of police and poor treatment in the medical system (as outlined in the In Plain Sight report), and intergenerational trauma have resulted in higher callouts for mental-health related issues and crisis calls. The PACTWe will pull it all together!   is able to provide culturally informed, community-based, empathic and relevant care to those in need. I welcome continued investments in PACT teams across the province and hope that one day soon all communities and Nations will be resourced to have their own care teams to respond to community members.”  
Skyler Oxley, mental health professional, North Shore PACT
“It has been a great experience working as a member of PACT in its first year. We've helped a lot of people on the North Shore who otherwise would not have been able to access mental-health services. There is a need for preventative support and after-hours care that emergency services aren’t able to provide, and it has been thoroughly rewarding to see those needs get met. I look forward to supporting more individuals and families in our community with care.”   
Supt. Todd Preston, president, British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP), Victoria –
“The BCACP is supportive of the announcement today from the provincial government for the provincial funding of HealthIM. This evidence-based app will provide British Columbia’s law enforcement officers with another key de-escalation and risk-screening tool to navigate the complexities of mental-health emergencies and strengthen the ability to respond to and support those in crisis. Officers using HealthIM will better be able to communicate with health centres and community services to keep everyone safe. When police are called to intervene, HealthIM will provide them with the tools and information they need to keep everyone safe.”
Stephanie Smith, president, BC General Employees' Union –
"Probation officers are on the front lines every day, helping to keep our communities safe. It’s challenging and important work, and we welcome new supports announced in the Safer Communities Action Plan. The BCGEU and our members look forward to working with government to tackle big challenges and deliver the services people in B.C. rely on.”
Ian Batey, executive director, Police Victim Services of B.C., Victoria –
“Root causes of tragedy, crime and victimization are found in social, economic, cultural and societal systems that create inequities and disadvantages for individuals, families and communities. These result in negative outcomes such as poverty, homelessness, mental-health challenges, crime and victimization, as identified in Premier Eby’s plan. Police Victim Services of B.C. looks forward to playing an integral part in ensuring those who are victimized by traumatic incidents are provided with compassionate, professional and consistent support throughout the province.”
Sean Bujtas, mayor of Terrace –
"The struggles that we have experienced as a result of repeat offenders throughout Terrace, and especially in our downtown core, have been an ongoing issue that impacts everyone from families to business owners. We are glad to see the Province working collaboratively with a wide variety of agencies to mitigate some of the challenges related to crime in our community.”
Leonard Krog, mayor of Nanaimo –
“We’ve all seen the impacts of criminal behaviour in the downtown. That’s why I’m pleased to see the Province’s co-ordinated approach of both enforcement and strengthened services, which will help break the cycle of repeat offending, help people to receive the supports they need, and help people feel safe and secure in our community.”
Brenda Locke, mayor of Surrey –
“The new Safer Communities Action Plan is comprehensive and multi-tiered. There is no question that a sharp change in direction in how we deal with repeat violent offenders is long overdue. A small number of career criminals have been, far too often, responsible for the violence that has been perpertrated on innocent individuals. For people and communites to feel safe, the revolving door of arrest and release has to stop. I also want to recognize how this plan addresses mental-health and addiction challenges. Tackling this issue on multiple fronts is a fresh step toward breaking the cycle of crime and addiction. The City of Surrey looks forward to working with Premier Eby and his team in a timely implementation of the new Safer Communities Action Plan.”
Silas White, mayor of Gibsons –
“Premier Eby’s Safer Communities Action Plan is extremely well-thought-out and comprehensive. It assists those of us in smaller communities with mental-health response teams, and an enhanced focus on people troubled by brain injuries. The most frequent victims of violent crime are other vulnerable and marginalized people, and this plan will help them and all of us by keying in on the dangerous few who are either in need of much more institutional support, or have been taking unfair advantage of gaps in our justice system.”
Janice Morrison, mayor of Nelson –
“Enhanced public safety and interventions regarding mental health and addictions are important to smaller communities. The Safer Communities Action Plan’s two-pronged approach is inclusive. Our protective services are going to have increased capacity to deal with repeat offenders and our community intervention/support services are going to see much-needed increases in resources. We all want to live in safe and healthy communities and I look forward to working with the B.C. government and Premier Eby as the plan moves forward.”
Jen Ford, president, Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and Whistler councillor –
“B.C.’s communities have seen a steady growth in random violence and unchecked vandalism in downtown cores due to repeat offenders. Local governments have been responding to this complex issue and we are pleased to see a provincial commitment to address it through improved enforcement measures and increased complex care resources. The new action plan promises to advance efforts in both areas, and UBCM welcomes its implementation.”
New repeat violent offender response teams
The Province is standing up new co-ordinated multi-agency regional teams that will work together to stop violent crime before it starts. Comprised of police officers, as well as 21 dedicated prosecutors, 21 probation officers, 21 support personnel and nine correctional supervisors, the teams will:
These collaborative teams are a new and improved version of B.C.’s Prolific Offender Management program. The former program, which ran from 2008 until 2012, and until it was defunded, had some success bringing together community partners such as police, mental-health and community support service providers to monitor and help offenders break the cycle of repeat offending.
HealthIM
HealthIM is a digital public safety system designed to improve emergency police response in mental-health and substance-use situations. It is a tool that increases safety for both the first responder and the person in crisis. The app guides police officers, who are first to respond, through questions to help them understand the behaviour of the person in crisis. It can help to facilitate better assessments and faster emergency room admissions because police and clinicians are using the same language and police have the information doctors and nurses need at hand immediately.
Crown prosecutor training and enhanced bail briefs
Training for Crown counsel on bail practices related to repeat violent offending is already underway and additional training will continue to cover new initiatives and reforms. In addition, Crown counsel and police will work together to ensure bail briefs are complete and prepared in accordance with best practices. This means that Crown counsel will always have the best information from police to present to the court, maximizing the ability of the court to make decisions that protect the public.
Virtual bail
To support timely, effective bail hearings that will protect the public and meet constitutional obligations, the Province is investing more than $3 million per year to expand virtual bail hearings throughout B.C. By reducing the need for accused people to travel to larger centres, virtual bail hearings minimize the risk that alleged offenders will be transported hundreds of kilometres from home and get stuck, homeless, in a hub city like Terrace, Trail, Prince George, Williams Lake, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Kamloops or Campbell River. Instead, they can stay in their home communities and access existing supports, family and friends.
Information-sharing agreement
Co-ordination of information is key in responding to people who re-offend regularly, regardless of the nature of the crime. A new information-sharing agreement within existing privacy rules will remove barriers that can prevent prosecutors, police and social service providers from sharing information that is helpful to the work each is doing. Allowing different agencies to disclose information will reduce the duplication of resources and provide more efficient and effective case management and justice outcomes.
A steering committee will be set up to guide this work. Membership includes:
Unexplained wealth orders
Young people are attracted to gang life by images of fast cars, fancy homes and luxury goods. By seizing this property from high-level, predatory criminal organizations and individuals, the Province can take away this incentive and send a clear message to organized crime. One of the key recommendations of the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia supported by an opinion from a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, “unexplained wealth order” laws will break new ground nationally in Canada and build on lessons learned from other jurisdictions like the United Kingdom.
Legislation on unexplained wealth orders will be introduced during the spring 2023 legislative session.
Clear and understandable approach to prosecution policy for repeat violent offenders
On Nov. 16, 2022, Attorney General Murray Rankin issued a directive to the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) to amend their bail policy to help improve public confidence in the justice system in communities throughout B.C. through amendments to bail policy that are clear and understandable in the situation of repeat violent offenders. The revised policy will give the public confidence that prosecutors will always address, to the full extent possible under the law, the risk that repeat violent offenders pose to public safety in British Columbia, especially in relation to the decision to seek pre-trial detention of people who commit repeat violent offences. It will be implemented on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. 
Peer Assisted Care Teams (PACTs)
As a key action of the Safer Communities Action Plan and strengthening supports for people, the Province will be expanding civilian-led teams of trained peers and mental-health professionals, like social workers and psychiatric nurses, to provide trauma informed, culturally safe support for people in crisis. A total of 12 PACTs will be created, including some that are Indigenous-led teams.
Care teams made up of mental-health professionals and peer workers respond to calls related to feelings of hopelessness or despair, social isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, substance use or other mental-health challenges.
Responses range from crisis counselling and de-escalation to advocating for the person in distress and connecting them to appropriate resources and services. The teams can respond instead of police, but can also work alongside police and other responders depending on the situation.
Expanding car programs
In every region of the province, there are specialized mobile crisis-response units that partner an officer with a health-care worker to respond to mental-health calls.
These units, or Cars, are partnerships between local law enforcement or RCMP and the regional health authorities. To expand this program, the Province is establishing a new $3-million fund for integrated mobile community crisis response by police and health-care workers in communities throughout B.C. An application process will be established for communities to apply for funding.
Current Car programs include:
More Indigenous justice centres
Indigenous justice centres are operated by the BC First Nations Justice Council and support the shared commitment to addressing the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice system, which has its roots in long-standing systemic racism and the impacts of intergenerational trauma. The centres offer culturally appropriate information, advice, support, and representation for Indigenous Peoples, and are focused on intervening to stop the risk of repeated interactions with the legal system for Indigenous people in the province. 
There are currently three in-person Indigenous justice centres open in Merritt, Prince George and Prince Rupert, and one virtual Indigenous justice centre. The services help to identify and address the root causes of the actions of individuals in the criminal justice system to help prevent future negative interactions with police and the justice system. 
To further improve access to culturally appropriate legal services for Indigenous Peoples, the Province is funding 10 additional centres. Five are set to open next year. To better support Indigenous Peoples in urban areas, the first five centres will open in metropolitan areas.
Increasing addictions treatment care
To help streamline access and fill gaps between services for people living with addiction challenges, the Province is working with St. Paul’s Clinical Addiction Program, along with Providence Health Care and Vancouver Coastal Health to develop a model of addiction care that will improve access for British Columbians to treatment services. St. Paul’s Hospital houses the largest interdepartmental Division of Addiction in the country and is internationally recognized.
The LePard-Butler report emphasized the need to improve access to addictions treatment services. Since 2017, the government has been working to transform mental-health and substance-use services in B.C. through historic investments across the full spectrum of treatment and recovery. Over the past five years, the Province has added 340 new substance-use beds throughout B.C., for a total of 3,272 publicly funded adult and youth community substance use beds.
Expanded funding for brain injury services
A dramatic increase in brain injuries due to the overdose crisis has led to reports from across the province of increased disorder and repeat hospitalizations and arrests of people living with acquired brain injuries. Regardless of the cause, but with a focus on people at risk of or actively involved in the criminal justice system, new funding will ensure British Columbians living with brain injuries will have increased access to important services, including life skills, behaviour coaching, support groups, and more. The Province is investing $4.5 million over three years to the Brain Injury Alliance to support delivery of these services in 13 communities throughout B.C.
The Alliance, a non-profit organization comprised of 13 community brain-injury societies in B.C., helps more than 4,000 people each year learn how to live with the changes and challenges they face after injury, including those resulting from toxic drug poisoning. Alliance members are community associations that run rehabilitative programs and services, including in BC Corrections facilities, individual support such as life-skills assistance, and homelessness prevention and group services, such as drop-in sessions.
These new initiatives build on the programs, services and initiatives the Province has undertaken or implemented to strengthen enforcement to break the cycle of violence and crime, and to strengthen services to keep communities safe and healthy.
Civil forfeiture proceeds
Since 2017-18, government has provided over $38 million in grant funding to organizations in B.C. to prevent and reduce crime through the Civil Forfeiture Crime Prevention and Remediation Grant Program.
The Civil Forfeiture Grant Program undermines the profit motive behind criminal activity by taking away tools and proceeds of crime and putting them back into programs that support community safety and crime prevention. The program provides annual, one-time funding to organizations throughout B.C. for the implementation of crime prevention and remediation projects.
Situation Tables
To improve information sharing between health care, justice and Indigenous partners, government is currently funding 17 Situation Tables in communities around the province. Situation Tables bring together front-line staff from the public safety, health and social service sectors to identify high-risk individuals and collaboratively and rapidly connect them to services and supports they need, before they experience a negative or traumatic event (e.g., victimization, overdose, incarceration, eviction, etc.). Situation Tables empower agencies to work together to provide holistic supports to people and lower the risk of potential violence or re-offending. 
Combating gang activites
The Province has a multi-pronged, comprehensive gun and gang strategy that involves focused and sustained initiatives over several years. In addition to standard and ongoing base-budget funding for dedicated investigative and enforcement teams, the Province has provided dedicated funding for a suite of innovative initiatives, including, but not limited to: 
The newly created BC Witness Security Unit has resulted in 419 charges laid, including 134 murder charges (including attempt and accessory) and 77 firearm-related charges. Convictions of 32 accused has resulted in a cumulative total of 276 years in prison. These convictions have amounted to an estimated cost savings of over $74 million to the province. 
In addition to targeted enforcement, the Province funds the Gang Exiting and Outreach Program, which helps high-risk, gang-entrenched youth and adults leave a life of crime. 
Supporting victims, preventing violence and discrimination
Government supports a range of services to support victims of domestic violence and sexual violence. This includes over 160 community and police-based victim service programs, which provide emotional support, information, referrals and practical assistance to victims of crime and trauma throughout B.C. In addition, this year more than $4.1 million is being awarded to projects that prevent human trafficking, gender-based violence, and violence against children and youth.
Government is also taking action to meet the ongoing demand for services such as counselling, outreach and crisis support for women and children who experience domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes, investing $5 million starting in 2018-19 with an additional increase of $3 million in 2020-21, for a total increase of $8 million annually. 
The Victim Court Support Program assists victims through the justice process by co-ordinating between victim service and justice system personnel (e.g., Crown).
The Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP) provides financial benefits to assist victims, immediate family members, and witnesses in dealing with the effects of violent crime. CVAP helps to offset financial loss and aid recovery from the impacts of crime.
Immediate crisis support for victims of family or sexual violence is available by calling or texting VictimLink BC’s 24/7 service at 1 800 563-0808 or by email: [email protected]
VictimLink BC also provides information and referral services for all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.
Complex care housing
Complex care housing supports people living with complex mental-health and substance-use challenges who are at risk of homelessness. The program works to address the needs of people who have overlapping mental-health and substance-use issues, trauma or acquired brain injuries that are often left to experience homelessness or at risk of eviction. Government is investing $164 million in this program to provide 500 new spaces.
Community transition teams
More people are getting mental-health and substance-use support when leaving correctional centres as B.C. creates new and expanded services for those at risk.
The Province has created Community Transition Teams to offer support services for people leaving all 10 provincial correctional centres. The teams help people with a safe and successful transition back into the community during a very vulnerable period in their life to break the cycle of reoffending. The teams connect people to lifesaving services, including mental-health and substance-use supports, for up to 90 days following their release.
The teams include social workers, nurses, peer support workers and Indigenous patient navigators, and a centralized hub to support specialized clinical and co-ordination needs throughout the province.
Funding for a restorative justice pilot program at the Prince George Indigenous Justice Centre
One of the recommendations from “A Rapid Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence in British Columbia” was to fund a restorative justice pilot program in Prince George. This recommendation was put forward by the BC First Nations Justice Council and endorsed by LePard and Butler, co-authors of the report. 
The Province has provided $100,000 to the Prince George Indigenous Justice Centre for this program which aims to reduce criminal recidivism amongst Indigenous Peoples.
Restorative processes are voluntary and provide opportunities to victims, offenders and communities affected by a crime to communicate about the causes, circumstances and impact of the crime. The program will include a path to care and treatment while providing supports to reverse the current outcomes by promoting diversion and will utilize restorative justice approaches.
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The B.C. Public Service acknowledges the territories of First Nations around B.C. and is grateful to carry out our work on these lands. We acknowledge the rights, interests, priorities, and concerns of all Indigenous Peoples – First Nations, Métis, and Inuit – respecting and acknowledging their distinct cultures, histories, rights, laws, and governments.

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