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April 15th, 2021

NDP health critic introduces legislation to decriminalize drug use

The bill proposes a health-based approach to treating addiction by ensuring safe supply, access to treatment and criminal record expungement

Today, NDP health critic Don Davies introduced ground-breaking legislation to decriminalize drug use in Canada and to treat substance use comprehensively as a health issue. Davies’ bill would address Canada’s overdose epidemic by decriminalizing personal possession, expunging criminal records for possession, ensuring low-barrier access to safe supply, and expanding access to harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services.

“Last year was the deadliest year on record for overdoses in British Columbia– over 1700 people died. We have lost over 20,000 lives in the last five years in Canada. Criminalization, a toxic illicit street supply and a lack of timely access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery services have caused this ongoing catastrophe,” said Davies. “Decades of evidence prove the current approach isn’t working. It’s time to treat substance use and addiction as the health issues they truly are.”

Davies said taking a comprehensive approach is critical to effective action.

“Forcing people to buy poisoned drugs from criminal street gangs is causing avoidable deaths, so ensuring a safe, regulated supply is essential. Trauma and stigma are leading contributors to harm, so we must expunge criminal records that re-traumatize and stigmatize for life. And education, prevention and treatment are the long-term solutions that will actually help people.”

Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Patricia Daly, and BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry have both called for the decriminalization of substance use and the provision of safe supply as urgent and necessary next steps to address the overdose epidemic. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has also called for decriminalization and a health-based approach to substance use.

“Justin Trudeau claims that his government’s response to COVID-19 has been evidence-based and informed by the advice of public health experts,” said Davies. “It’s time to apply this approach to Canada’s other epidemic. Lives depend on it.”