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Failure to communicate

This week the Chief reported that Brackendale residents are again up in arms about a project in their neighbourhood.

This week the Chief reported that Brackendale residents are again up in arms about a project in their neighbourhood. They say a "drug rehab centre" is opening soon on Depot Road Let's be clear: They haven't heard that the facility is being proposed, but that it's coming. I think it's great news that Vancouver Coastal Health is opening a facility of this sort in Squamish. After all, haven't there been enough meth forums in town to generate awareness on this issue? But I don't blame Brackendale residents for being furious that they were left completely in the dark about it.

Although Vancouver Coastal Health advertised that it would present the plans for "expanding mental health and addictions services" on Thursday (March 9), the neighbours had no inkling that the issue would impact them so directly. One can argue that it's up to the residents to educate themselves, but if they had no idea the presentation was even going to be held, who's to blame? It's up to communications staff of any organization to make sure people are aware of issues that affect them. The use of euphemisms to sterilize the issue leads - as it always does - to confusion, and made people feel that someone was pulling the wool over their eyes. If this is a halfway house on Depot Road, call it a halfway house on Depot Road There should be no shame in it, and then at least the proponents can sell the plan on its merits rather than get bogged down by semantics.

The intention for the Depot Road house was discovered only after someone pried it out of a facility worker who was going around inviting neighbours to an informal meet and greet. This well-intentioned worker is now holding the bag for spilling the beans, but when are governing bodies going to realize that keeping things secret until the very last minute does nothing but raise the ire of the community? "If this is so innocuous," they ask, "why the secrecy?"

It's not the first time Squamish residents have felt slighted for finding out secondhand what's about to happen in their own neighbourhood. It's time for governing authorities to be proactive in communication strategies, not reactive. Although I understand that getting input from everyone who believes they have a stake in a matter could bog down processes, waiting until the deal is done to tell people what's happening (yes, in their backyards) is counter productive and ultimately leads to residents' unnecessary anger over being left out of the loop rather than clearheaded thinking on what is actually being proposed.

It's not just NIMBYism, it's a matter of principle.