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Federal bill to decriminalize drug possession for personal use introduced to parliament

Island MPs ask government to decriminalize possession, make treatment more accessible in new bill
Blaney with staff from the Community Resource Centre in Powell River promoting the CARE (Compassionate Access to Resources for Everyone) Cupboard outside their Overdose Prevention Centre. Photo supplied by Rachel Blaney

Two Vancouver Island MPs are asking the federal government to decriminalize drug possession in an effort to help families dealing with loved ones who use or are addicted to drugs.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns introduced a private member’s bill that was seconded by North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney that would decriminalize drug possession for personal use and expand access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery programs and services.

“We need to decriminalize immediately and save lives by providing access to a regulated safer supply of drugs for users,” Johns said. “Besides these necessary steps, this bill would also require the government to remove barriers to employment, housing and travel for thousands of Canadians by expunging their criminal records for simple possession of drugs. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

Since 2016, nearly 6,000 overdose deaths have been reported in B.C. alone. In 2021, Vancouver, Toronto and the province of B.C. have all applied to the federal government to allow for decriminalization of drugs for personal use. In 2021, Campbell River had 403 reported overdose calls, a number much higher than any of the previous five years.

Overdose calls in the province were up 31 per cent in 2021 over the previous year.

“I’ve walked with parents and heard heartbreaking stories of loss in our communities. No family should have to go through that. It’s clear that the current approach isn’t working,” said Blaney. “Experts are clear that this crisis needs a health focused approach. People who use drugs should not be treated like criminals.

“They need better access to harm reduction and treatment. I am urging all of Parliament to act now and save lives.”

RELATED: Trickle-down effect: never-ending opioid crisis driving B.C. paramedics to exhaustion

B.C. paramedics receive record number of overdose calls in 2021, up 31% since 2020

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