Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Ottawa waiting for info from B.C. before deciding next steps on drug criminalization | CBC News

Must read

A decision about whether to recriminalize public drug use in British Columbia needs to be made urgently, Canada’s addictions minister said Wednesday, but she says she is still waiting for more information from the province before making a call.

The province is one year into a three-year pilot project to decriminalize possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs, including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine. A Health Canada exemption was issued to allow the pilot to proceed.

Last week, B.C. Premier David Eby asked Health Canada to recriminalize the use of those drugs in public spaces, such as hospitals and parks. Possession in private spaces would still be allowed.

But Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks said Ottawa needs more information before it can respond to Eby’s request.

“We’ve asked B.C. for updates and more information on what they’ve submitted to us,” Saks said on her way into a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday.

WATCH | Examining B.C.’s approach to drug use: 

Did B.C.’s drug decriminalization project fail?

Adrian Dix, British Columbia’s minister of health, discusses the province’s decision to recriminalize drug use in public spaces like parks, public transit and hospitals.

“We understand that this is urgent, which is why we’ve asked them to respond to us on an urgent basis so that we can address this.”

Saks would not say what information she has requested, and her office did not immediately respond to a request for details. 

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday that Eby had already spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Saks had also consulted with B.C. Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside. 

He did not confirm what information had been requested, but said their federal counterparts “had been kept in the loop.”

“We want them to act because we’re taking all of the steps necessary here,” Dix said during an unrelated news conference.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that them not acting would be based on not having information because, frankly, we’re providing them all of the information we have to ensure that this happens quickly and expeditiously.”

A statement from B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said the province had received a request for more information on Wednesday morning and it has already responded with additional data on substance use along with possible guidance for police.

“We will continue to work quickly with the federal government so these changes can be enacted as soon as possible, so police can have the tools they need to address drug use in public spaces,” the statement said.

Political issue

Eby’s request has become a major focus of the opposition Conservatives this week, and Leader Pierre Poilievre has asked the government to immediately recriminalize drugs in public spaces in B.C.

He also posted a letter to X Wednesday asking that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reject Toronto’s long-standing request to extend the decriminalization pilot.

“If you allow Toronto to legalize hard drugs, as you did with British Columbia, the only outcome will be leaving the most vulnerable Canadians to a life of misery and despair,” Poilievre said in the letter.

Toronto Public Health said in a statement Monday that it is monitoring B.C.’s experience, and that in its proposed model, public drug use would remain illegal. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford repeated his call Monday for Toronto to drop that application.

Latest article