Decriminalization of hard drugs in BC
Please see the file below to read the letter of response from the Minister. To view the response from Health Canada, scroll to the bottom of this blog.
Sent: June 3, 2022 11:15 AM To: 'email@example.com' <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 'email@example.com' <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: Letnick.MLA, Norm LASS:EX <Norm.Letnick.MLA@leg.bc.ca>; 'email@example.com' <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 'email@example.com' <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 'email@example.com' <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Decriminalization of hard drugs in BC
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Malcolmson,
Two weeks ago, I almost hit a transient man who decided to play Frogger across Highway 97 in Kelowna. He walked across 6 lanes of traffic, completely oblivious to honking, screeching brakes and everyone’s horrified reaction to the fact they almost killed someone at 8 am on a Saturday morning. From the looks of him, the man was strung out on some kind of drug, in his own little universe.
I note that, part of your justification for this move to decriminalize hard drugs is to “reduce the fear and shame that keep people silent about their drug use”; however I completely disagree with how this change in regulation will play out on the streets. For all intents and purposes, hard drugs have been legal in Kelowna for the past few years. I rarely go downtown any more due to the number of homeless, tweaked out individuals who make me feel unsafe, even walking around in broad daylight. The RCMP presence is practically non-existent (although I note that they had the time to arrest a woman for refusing to wear a mask in Value Village two years ago. Priorities!). No one is hiding their crack pipes or needles, and no one seems overly ashamed about turning downtown Kelowna into a shantytown. With this latest step towards legalizing hard drugs without concurrently implementing any social programs to help these individuals deal with their mental illness and drug addiction, all you have done is take away the ability of the RCMP to charge individuals with drug possession so they can at least temporarily remove them from the streets, confiscate unsafe drugs and try to send them forward on a better path.
Of course, Kelowna is not unique to cities in BC that have been overtaken by the addicted and mentally ill; one only needs to visit Vancouver, Victoria, Vernon, etc. to witness what rampant drug use, without dedicated criminal prosecution or mental health resources (and with encouragement by “wet” facilities), does to communities. And of course, no one is fooled by this Federal Government’s blatant attack on its citizens by simultaneously encouraging drug use while attacking the mental health of Canadians by trying to instill in all of us learned helplessness and dependence on this current nanny state.
I note that our local news source recently ran a poll that indicated that the vast majority of Canadians are opposed to decriminalizing hard drugs; I also note that our government does not seem to feel any compulsion to act in accordance with its citizen employers.
Let’s all pretend not to be shocked when drug overdose deaths skyrocket next year, shall we?
From: Hamilton, Amanda (HC/SC) <email@example.com> On Behalf Of CSD DGO / BDG DSC (HC/SC) Sent: January 31, 2023 11:18 AM Subject: In response to your correspondence - Decriminalization of hard drugs in BC
Thank you for your correspondence dated June 3, 2022, to the Minister of Mental Health and Additions and Associate Minister of Health, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, in which you express your concerns with regards to the subsection 56(1) exemption granted under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in the province of British Columbia (BC). I have been asked to respond to you directly, and I apologize for the delay in responding.
The Government of Canada recognizes the devastating impacts that the overdose crisis is having on individuals, our friends and families, and communities across the country. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-standing challenges regarding substance use and the overdose crisis, with most jurisdictions reporting record high rates of overdose deaths and harms. Substance use harms are public health issues that are shaped by complex factors, many of which can be beyond an individual's control. As mental health has worsened and substance use has increased among people in Canada throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that solutions to the overdose crisis must consider broader health and social issues.
Our approach to the overdose crisis has been comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate, guided by our federal drug strategy – the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS). The CDSS takes a public health-focused approach and lays out our framework for evidence-based actions to reduce the harms associated with substance use in Canada.
This exemption was requested by the province of BC as one part of its comprehensive response to the overdose crisis, as a way to help reduce stigma related to substance use, which can act as a barrier for people who use drugs in seeking the help they need. Stakeholders have reported that stigma and fear of criminalization cause some people to hide their drug use, use alone, or use in other ways that increase risk of harms. Stakeholders have also indicated that stigma acts as a barrier to accessing important health and social services, including treatment and that reducing stigma can help save lives.
It is important to note that this exemption is not the same as legalization. Rather, this is a time-limited exemption granted in one province for specific substances and will be supported by rigorous monitoring and evaluation. It is not a change to Canada’s drug laws. In addition, this exemption only relates to personal possession. Unless otherwise authorized, other activities with illegal drugs—including production, trafficking, import and export—remain illegal and subject to criminal penalties, even if conducted with the drugs listed in the exemption, and in amounts under the 2.5 grams threshold.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to share your views with us. The Government of Canada is committed to continued collaboration between jurisdictions, health providers, people with lived and living experience, stakeholders, and partners such as community-based organizations to reduce the harms associated with substance use and providing people with the culturally appropriate and trauma-informed support they need.
Jennifer Saxe Director General
Controlled Substances Directorate Health Canada