BURNABY – The union representing thousands of workers in B.C. says the provincial government must hold a public inquiry to examine organized crime, the opioid crisis, money laundering and its connection to real estate.
The BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) says an inquiry is the best way to learn the truth about a crisis that has claimed thousands of lives, and made B.C. the most unaffordable province to live in Canada.
“Our question is how are these things connected? Are they connected? What were the gaps in our system that provided opportunity for others to take advantage of our vulnerability?” president Stephanie Smith questioned.
The BCGEU has launched an online petition, calling on the province to hold such an inquiry.
Smith says over the past several years, she’s heard directly from union members in industries like health care, social services, and those who work as corrections officers about how the opioid crisis has affected them. “They’ve been thrust in the role of the first responder.”
“Also … speaking to our members, one of the very first things they bring up to us is the lack of affordability in housing. Skyrocketing rents, having to move out of communities they grew up in, not being able to live where they want to work — simply because they can’t afford a home,” she added.
The demand for an inquiry follows a decision late last year to drop criminal charges after a two-year RCMP investigation into money laundering.
Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry and the union wants support for its petition campaign to prod the government to act.
“What will fix the existing problems in our system? Does that include perhaps the Canadian Criminal Code or regulations or legislation that the government would need to enact? Those things will take time,” Smith said.
The union has 72,000 members.
– With files from Lasia Kretzel