Trio of Metro Vancouver councillors call for end of B.C.’s decriminalization pilot

The British Columbia government is facing new pushback over its drug decriminalization pilot project, this time from a trio of city councillors.

Linda Annis in Surrey, Daniel Fontaine in New Westminster and Alexa Loo in Richmond have joined together to call on the province to scrap the program.

“I have never seen this kind of open drug use in Richmond, I have never seen this level of encampments in Richmond, I have never seen the amount of suffering in Richmond, people standing in that zombie pose,” Loo told Global News.

“You have to have treatments available for when people want it. What we are doing now is actually making things worse.”

Click to play video: 'Both sides of debate after Oregon abandons its drug decriminalization program'

Both sides of debate after Oregon abandons its drug decriminalization program

B.C. is just over a year into its three-year pilot, which decriminalized the possession of up to 2.5 grams of several common street drugs.

Story continues below advertisement

The initiative operates with an exemption to federal drug laws granted by Health Canada.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

The three councillors each plan to bring motions to their respective city councils to formally call on the province to end the pilot.

“We really felt the need to say to the provincial government that the experiment on decriminalization isn’t working, and we need to do something different,” Loo said. “It’s time to end it.”

Legislators in the state of Oregon recently voted to rescind key elements of that state’s decriminalization pilot. Starting in September, those caught in possession of drugs will face a new misdemeanor that defaults to probation as a sentence, so long as they attend treatment. The new legislation also leaves drug users without a criminal record.

The 180 came amid evidence few people were accessing resources set aside for drug users, and amid a drug death toll that continued to mount.

Click to play video: 'B.C. drug decriminalization under fire again'

B.C. drug decriminalization under fire again

BC United Opposition critic for mental health and addictions Elenore Sturko argued it is time for B.C. to follow Oregon’s lead.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s a pilot, which means it is something that was tried. And the reality is I think a lot of British Columbians, police agencies and other people supported the idea that we should try to do something with the idea that it would help save lives,” she said.

“We have not got any evidence that it has saved any lives. In fact, we lost more people than we have in our history to overdoses last year.”

More on BC

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside is scheduled to meet with her federal counterpart on Friday to discuss how the decriminalization pilot is working.

“We report to Health Canada on a quarterly basis, the indicators we are tracking with respect to issues around the numbers of arrests, the interactions police are having with people who are carrying a small amount of possession, we have a number of health system indicators we are looking at in terms of connecting people to care,” she said.

“We are working very hard with all of our partners at the municipal level, with law enforcement, in order to address so that we can try to keep people safe.”

Whiteside said the province will provide an update on the decriminalization pilot “later this year,” but wouldn’t say whether that would come before the Oct. 19 provincial election.


&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.