FILE – People hold signs during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

FILE – People hold signs during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. to request federal exemption for simple drug possession

Announcement comes on 5-year anniversary of B.C.’s first public health emergency

B.C.’s minister dedicated to addiction and mental health supports says the province will be officially requesting a federal exemption to decriminalize personal possession of drugs in order to combat the raging overdose crisis.

Wednesday (April 14) marks five years since former provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared illicit drug poisonings as the province’s first public health emergency. Since 2016, more than 7,000 British Columbians have died from illicit drugs – 1,700 of those in 2020, which is the worst year in deaths in the province’s history.

That’s an average of five people dying each day.

ALSO READ: With 1,716 deaths, 2020 deadliest year of overdose crisis in B.C. history

During a news conference, Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson announced $45 million in funds earmarked to curb drug poisonings over three years, as part of the upcoming 2021 budget. The money will be spread across all five health authorities.

People who use drugs should not face criminal penalties, Malcolmson said.

“Drug laws and enforcing them has had a punishing effect on people, driving them to use alone and putting their lives in serious jeopardy.”

Health officials and advocates have said that the pandemic exacerbated the grip of illicit drugs – with toxicity increasing – as well as forced many drug users into social isolation and using alone.

Overdose deaths by city
Infogram

ALSO READ: Former health officials, advocates reflect on anniversary of B.C.’s overdose emergency

ALSO READ: Some B.C. nurses given green light to prescribe safe drugs amid overdose spike

More to come.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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