Cranbrook city council and Attorney General David Eby pledged to remain in contact to identify potential solutions for repeat criminal offenders and to reach out to other provincial agencies for getting complex care services into Cranbrook.
Eby, also the B.C. minister responsible for housing, appeared before Cranbrook city council as a delegation on Monday night, following an escalating tone in correspondence with local officials over concerns raised by the community about crime, repeat offenders as well as housing supports and mental health and addictions services supports.
Both Mayor Lee Pratt and Councillor Wes Graham noted perceptions that repeat criminal offenders are not facing consequences in court for their actions.
“I think there’s some reality to that,” Eby acknowledged. “The judiciary is independent from me, and so when they make those decisions, I can’t direct them. We can appeal it and so on.
“So working with the authorities that we do have at the provincial level, we have to find ways to respond to this reality that citizens are facing.”
While the judiciary is independent from political interference, Eby told council he can direct Crown counsel and influence decisions on how a particular offender and case file is being treated.
Eby also provided some raw numbers of case files that were sent to Crown counsel in 2021/2022, with 1,088 received by the local office. Of that, 843 were approved to court. 194 resulted in no charge, 18 resulted in alternative measures, 34 were returned to police for more investigation and 69 remain in progress.
That compares to 2020/2021, with 1,288 reports submitted to Crown in total. Of that, 993 were approved to court, 309 were no charge decisions, 23 went to alternative measures, 17 went back to police for more work and 9 remain in progress.
“We’re not going to be able to, and don’t wish to, frankly, overturn federal law and lock everybody up,” said Eby, while speaking about a change in perception of increasing property crime, violent crime and random attacks, particularly in Vancouver.
“Instead, what I would like are constructive approaches to deal with these issues and of serious mental health and addiction that are very visible on the street.”
In his role as minister responsible for housing, Eby also fielded questions on the potential for complex care services in Cranbrook and ran through provincial budget items relating to homelessness services.
Complex care housing spaces have previously been announced at sites in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Surrey and Victoria, through complex care — a new housing model that provides integrated services to meet the needs of people who have overlapping challenges around mental health and substance use issues, or trauma and acquired brain injuries.
A further 20 sites will also be funded out of the province’s recent budget, which commits $164 million over three years to expand the complex care program.
What does that mean for Cranbrook?
That is unclear right now, however, the province says it is anticipating increasing levels of interest from B.C. communities for complex care housing, according to an update from Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions on Tuesday.
Health authorities are working with individual communities to identify specific needs for mental health and substance use services, including complex care housing. The ministry says is also developing a process to identify communities for future expansion of complex care housing and services.
A provincial homeless strategy is also set to be released later in the spring, which is billed as a the first comprehensive homeless strategy in the province to be coordinated across ministries and partner agencies, according to Eby.
BC Housing is also working on getting a homeless shelter at 16 Ave N in Cranbrook up and running, which will be operated by a local non-profit organization. However, there have been some technical issues with the site, which requires a number of renovations, since it was zoned to permit shelter operations last year.