Zoned Out: "NIMBYism", Addiction Services, and Municipal Governance in British Columbia

A new article by Scott Bernstein and Darcie Bennett, to be published in the International Journal of Drug Policy's special issue "Methadone Mess".  This article discusses restrictive zoning bylaws in Abbotsford, Mission, Coquitlam and Surrey, BC and their impact on access to health care for marginalized drug users.


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In Canada, Provincial Governments have jurisdiction over delivery of healthcare including harm reduction services and Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT). While policy directives and funding come from the provincial capital, individuals’ access to these services happens in neighbourhoods and municipalities spread out across the province. In some cases, public health objectives targeted at people living with addictions and the rights to equitable access to healthcare are at odds with the vision that residents, business associations and other interest groups have for their neighbourhood or city.

This paper looks at the cases of four British Columbia municipalities, Mission, Surrey, Coquitlam and Abbotsford, where local governments have used zoning provisions to restrict access to harm reduction services and drug substitution therapies including MMT. This paper will contextualize these case studies in a survey of zoning and bylaw provisions related to harm reduction and MMT across British Columbia, and examine the interplay between municipal actions and public discourses that affect access to healthcare for people living with addictions. Finally, this paper will explore possible legal implications for municipalities that use their zoning and permitting powers to restrict access to health care for people with addictions, as well as public engagement strategies for healthcare advocates that have the potential to reduce resistance to health services for people living with addictions in communities across the province.


Visit the publisher's website for more information about the article and the publication.

Download this article here.