When Jennifer Moretti’s daughter showed her the white powder in a zip-lock plastic bag that she found on her elementary school’s playground, the Nanaimo mother was horrified.
The white substance her 10-year-old daughter thought was powdered coconut was actually crack cocaine.
Moretti said the incident underscores the harsh reality of what kids are having to deal with.
Her daughter was not exposed to the drugs, which she found last week on the playground of Cilaire Elementary School.
Moretti carefully placed the bag into another bag and took it to the Nanaimo RCMP detachment. A police officer said he would alert the school liaison officer.
After talking to the principal, Moretti learned that there are people who camp overnight on the other side of a fence adjacent to the elementary school.
Moretti said after speaking with a few parents, they agreed to set up a volunteer committee that will do sweeps of the school grounds when school resumes in September.
Moretti said while her daughter had a gut feeling that the white powdered substance didn’t look right and that she should tell an adult, she hasn’t entirely grasped the gravity of the situation.
“How do you describe to a 10-year-old that she just found something that could have potentially killed her?” Moretti asked. “I was thankful she brought it home to my attention because what if a five-year-old found it and ate it?”
Moretti said the school sent out a notice alerting parents to what happened, but she feels more needs to be done to raise awareness among parents and children. “The school is trying their best to be supportive, but the issue is bigger than that school.”
The issue of drugs and homelessness has become a flashpoint in Nanaimo, particularly as tension grows around the tent city on industrial land near Nanaimo Harbour.
Nanaimo city hall issued a trespass notice on May 25, ordering the more than 100 tent city residents to vacate the property at 1 Port Drive by May 29. No one moved and Nanaimo RCMP did not go in to forcibly remove residents.
Last week, the city filed a petition asking B.C. Supreme Court to rule on whether the campers should vacate or stay.
On Monday, Justice Robin Baird scheduled a two-day hearing for the week of July 16.
Troy DeSouza, the lawyer representing Nanaimo, said the city hoped its petition would be heard sooner, but the lawyer representing tent city residents was not ready to present their arguments.
After the B.C. Supreme Court justice hears both sides, DeSouza expects he or she will reserve a decision. That means it could be late July or August before a court ruling is made.
The B.C Supreme Court has ruled that people who are homeless are allowed to erect a temporary overnight shelter in a park between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m., but the tents and personal possessions must be removed in the morning.
DeSouza expects the decision on the Nanaimo tent city to strongly influence the situation in Saanich, where a notice to vacate has been issued to residents of the tent city along the Trans-Canada Highway near Uptown.
“Absolutely, I think all these cases, they relate and they build on each other,” DeSouza said. “We’re hitting the precipice where courts need to look at this in a more long-term process and the impact to communities all over B.C.”