B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police addresses public consumption of illicit drugs
September 14, 2023 By British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police
Sep. 14, 2023, Victoria, B.C. – Senior police leadership in British Columbia have acknowledged the tragic toll the opioid crisis has taken on their communities and recognizes that extraordinary measures must be considered to address the ongoing deaths from the toxic drug supply.
The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) have shared their support of the decriminalization of personal amounts of illicit drugs as part of an integrated approach to divert persons who use drugs away from the criminal justice system and toward health services and pathways of care, with the goal of improving health and safety outcomes.
However, over the past several months, they have heard overwhelming feedback from individuals, business leaders, city councils and front-line police officers that the current exemption poses a significant risk to public safety with respect to public consumption. As such, police leaders from across the province agreed that additional measures must be implemented to ensure everyone feels safe.
The BCACP acknowledge that one of the goals of the exemption is to reduce contact between police and people who use drugs, reduce stigma and encourage people who use drugs to do so in the company of others. They recognize that there is a desire to ensure that people who use drugs are not encouraged to do so alone given the toxic drug supply and the ever-increasing number of overdose deaths. It is also important, however, to address the increasing community concerns with respect to people using drugs in ways that are harmful to children and youth.
The federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health has approved the request for an amendment to the existing subsection 56(1) exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act (CDSA), related to personal possession of illegal drugs. This amendment prohibits the possession of illegal drugs within 15 metres of public outdoor playgrounds, spray pools, wading pools and skate parks, alongside existing exclusions on possession on the premises of K-12 schools, licensed childcare facilities, and vehicles under certain conditions.
The BCACP believes this is a positive step forward aimed to improve public safety. As part of this amendment, police officers will now have the authority to enforce the CDSA when individuals are found to be in possession of illegal drugs in these child-focused spaces, effective September 18.
“Senior police leaders from across British Columbia are pleased that Health Canada and the Province of British Columbia heard our concerns with respect to public consumption. Although the BCACP supports decriminalization, we heard feedback from our communities about the need to ensure police have appropriate tools to address areas of concern, which prompted the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police to advocate Health Canada to add additional exceptions to the exemption. There is a clear need to ensure everyone feels safe in public places, while also ensuring people who use drugs are provided with alternate pathways of care,” said Vancouver Police Department Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson, Vice-President of the BCACP and Co-Chair of the CACP Drug Advisory Committee.
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