Westward Independent

Good Neighbours thrift store – Call to action

by Westward Independent
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The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP is currently investigating a suspicious fire in a commercial area.

Just before 1:00 a.m., on February 10, 2024 the North Cowichan Duncan RCMP responded to a report of a structure fire in the 5000 block of York Street in Duncan. The building, containing multiple businesses, was completely engulfed in flames. Occupants from neighbouring properties were safely evacuated.

North Cowichan Fire Department attended to contain the blaze. Based on the suspicious nature of the fire, investigators launched a criminal investigation. The Vancouver Island District RCMP Forensic Identification Services (FIS) and the Fire Inspector with the Municipality of North Cowichan are also investigating. Scene security is being maintained.



The fire that ravaged the Good Neighbours thrift store on February 10 has reignited a critical debate in Cowichan Valley, not just about homelessness and public safety, but about the role of local governance in navigating federal and provincial policies that directly impact our streets.


The controversy surrounding Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs) without community consent underscores a broader issue: the necessity for local municipalities to use their voices without shirking from worries of larger government push back as the he face of provincial or federal directives that may not align with community values or safety.


The establishment of SIFs has been touted as a step forward in addressing the opioid crisis, yet the implementation process has failed completely, with BC breaking records in opioid deaths each year. Legislation such as Federal Bill C-37, states by law that community and local government must agree with the SIF in their community, yet both voiced strongly their opposition to the SIF by the schools, which illustrates a troubling trend of local voices being sidelined.


This situation is a call for Cowichan Valley’s elected officials to step up and actively engage with the tools at their disposal to advocate for policies that reflect the community’s needs and safety concerns. The 87% surge in crime in early 2023, juxtaposed against the backdrop of these policy debates, lays bare the urgent need for a reassessment of our approach to public health and safety measures at all levels of government.


Among those most affected by the current state of affairs are individuals like a 60-year-old woman living on the streets, who shared her sad reality. Her reliance on the now-destroyed thrift store for basic necessities paints a vivid picture of the daily struggles faced by the homeless population. “Without access to such resources, surviving out here becomes even more difficult,” she reflects, highlighting the immediate human cost of the broader policy and social failures and what the Thrift store meant and provided to that community. It’s not just about the abstract principles of public health or community autonomy; it’s about real people, living in precarious situations, whose lives and well-being are directly impacted by the decisions of their elected representatives who have failed miserably for the greater community, and those more vulnerable.


The message to our local officials is clear: doing nothing is not an option. The community is watching, waiting for decisive action that moves beyond political expedience and addresses the urgent needs of its most vulnerable members but also the safety of our community, and our children. Kicking the can down the road, mired in political calculations, leaves our community unsafe, unsupported, and divided.


The time for action is now. Our elected officials must leverage the legislative tools at their disposal, which may not be many, but none have been daring enough to press the case of the potentially illegal act of Island Health that placed the SIF in an area, that no locals agreed upon , and potentially breached a federal bill. While taxpayers dole out more money for these failed initiatives through federal, provincial, and municipal taxes, they have become weary and expect local leaders and politicians to become advocates that are proactive, responsive, and unafraid to stand up for the well-being and safety of all its residents.


– Joseph

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