The mayor of Maple Ridge is admitting comments he made about his city’s homeless population weren’t appropriate, but he’s refusing to issue an official apology.
In a 34-minute video posted to his personal YouTube page Friday, Mike Morden said the majority of that population is made up of drug addicts, and that they were “raping and pillaging” the community.
“I see us becoming for some reason a hotspot in the Lower Mainland for people coming here to carry on doing drugs and basically raping and pillaging our businesses and that’s gotta stop,” he said in the video, which is a conversation with public relations specialist Susan Einarrson.
WATCH: (Aired April 8) B.C. Liberals back Maple Ridge mayor’s battle against province’s housing development
Morden didn’t offer any statistics to back up his claim that 80 per cent of the city’s homeless population in social housing is addicted to drugs, but added they’re not being properly supported.
“They’re all placed by BC Housing within our midst,” Morden said. “Most of them are in addictions, they’re in active addictions, and they’ve not been through programs to get better.”
The mayor’s comments were made in reaction to the B.C. government’s plans to bypass city council and develop 51 supportive housing units on province-owned land on Burnett Street, which has sparked a bitter fight between the province and the city over who has jurisdiction on decisions related to housing.
On Wednesday, Morden said his words were an expression of frustration that are echoed by local residents and businesses.
“Housing doesn’t solve addiction,” he said in an email, adding the city welcomes housing investments for seniors and low-income residents.
WATCH: (Aired March 30) Maple Ridge residents protest against province’s supportive housing development
“On the other side there’s a prolific property crime problem all driven to support addiction. That must stop. Safe neighbourhoods and business environment are essential rights,” he wrote.
Maple Ridge Coun. Kiersten Duncan says she’s angry over the mayor’s comments and the way he’s portrayed the city’s homelessness crisis.
“He’s not a private citizen,” she said. “What he says reflects poorly not just on himself but council as a whole and our entire community.”
Duncan said everyone in Maple Ridge, including the homeless population, deserves a public apology from Morden for his comments. She also said she supports the province’s plans.
“I don’t feel the city is doing nearly enough to help the residents, and that’s exactly why the province has had to step in,” she said.
The province’s housing project, which is slated to begin construction this month, is meant to support the 47 people registered as living in the Anita Place tent city, which was shut down and evacuated last month after numerous fires and safety concerns.
Morden said the development doesn’t address health care concerns and addiction treatment, a position that has since been echoed by B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson in an op-ed for Maple Ridge News.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson says both Morden and Wilkinson are misrepresenting the project, writing a letter to Wilkinson Wednesday saying his statements are “not accurate.”
“Every single one of our projects has supports included,” Robinson said Wednesday.
“I’m just so disappointed that the leader of the opposition and the mayor are discounting and dismissing the hard work of support workers that work tirelessly to change people’s lives.”
— With files from Richard Zussman
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