The BC Government has applied to decriminalize people who use drugs across the province.
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson said that this is a move to try and combat the rise in overdose deaths across BC.
“Substance use and addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal one.”
“B.C. is adding new health and substance-use care services almost weekly, but we know shame prevents many people from accessing life-saving care. That’s why it’s crucial to decriminalize people who use drugs.”
Malcolmson said she assumes the Federal Government will recognize the urgency of the situation and approve the application.
7,700 British Columbians have died because of a toxic drug supply since the province declared a public health emergency back in 2016.
A decrease in deaths was trending up until the pandemic, which caused toxic drug poisoning deaths to reach an all-time high.
Dr Bonnie Henry, Senator Larry Campbell, and Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe have all shown their support for the application, with Campbell adding that this is about keeping people alive.
“BC’s application to Health Canada to decriminalize people who use drugs is a vital step to keep people alive and help connect them with the health and social support they need,” said Henry.
“Decriminalization will help shift our focus from punishment, which has resulted in social isolation, stigma and fear, toward a medical model that recognizes substance use as a health issue. This is an important step that, combined with increased access to safe supply and implementation of an evidence-based model of treatment and recovery, will help to save lives,” said Lapointe.
The BC Government has also put more funding into addictions treatment across the province, with programs rolling out over the next few years.
“I would like to congratulate the provincial government for being the first in Canada to step forward on this critical issue. We know that drug use is a health problem, not a criminal one. That means we must respond with a public health approach and not a criminal justice one,” said Campbell.