Mayors across BC, including three from Vancouver Island, have expressed their support for Vancouver’s request to Health Canada to decriminalize drug possession.
Mayor of Victoria Lisa Helps, Mayor of Saanich Fred Haynes, and Mayor of Nanaimo Leonard Krog, among other four other BC Mayors signed a letter urging the Canadian government to approve the application and allow Vancouver to explore decriminalization for simple possession.
“We ask that you approve this application and allow Vancouver to explore this ground-breaking approach to move away from criminal sanctions and towards a health-focussed approach to substance use,” said a statement released Thursday.
“An exemption for the City of Vancouver will allow other municipalities to study the impacts of decriminalization and provide a valuable knowledge base to understand this policy as a way to counter the overdose crisis.”
While Mayors expressed their support for decriminalization they also acknowledged that there must be a multi-pronged approach to the opioid crisis citing more access to safe supply with pharmaceutical alternatives, harm reduction, and mental health support.
“We still need more action on access to safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to poison street drugs, expanded harm reduction services, improved primary and mental health supports, flexible pathways to treatment with culturally-appropriate options and stigma-free educational programming,” said the statement.
The request is a tool in the fight against the opioid epidemic and the letter cited the pilot project which went forward in 2003 when Vancouver established the first safe-consumption site.
On April 14th, BC announced a $45 million investment into harm reduction services, which will be distributed over the next three years.
Over the past year, BC has seen a record number of opioid-related deaths, where in January an average of 5.3 lives were lost each day.