B.C. Premier John Horgan walks to the rose garden at the B.C. legislature, June 16, 2020. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

B.C. Premier John Horgan has strongly backed a call by national police chiefs to decriminalize simple possession of prohibited drugs.

Horgan said July 9 he is proud to see Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer leading the initiative, as B.C. struggles with the most significant street drug and overdose problems, and the province begins an inquiry into police grappling with mental health and addiction issues.

B.C.’s position as a Pacific Rim country has led to opioid addiction being declared a public health emergency more than five years, and Horgan said his government has done what it can since taking office in 2017 to provide treatment resources and set up a dedicated ministry of mental health and addictions. But with the federal Criminal Code forcing police to treat drug abuse and associated mental health disorders as a crime, the province is limited in what it can do.

“This fundamental question, that Adam Palmer, the Vancouver Police Chief and the head of the national chiefs outlined today, is where I believe we need to go,” Horgan told reporters at the B.C. legislature. “If not now, when? We’re in the midst of a global pandemic when it comes to COVID-19. In British Columbia that is further complicated by an overdose crisis which saw, last month, the highest monthly number of deaths that we’ve seen in a good long time.

“Anything that we can do to reduce the deaths and reduce the dependence, and quite frankly, to free up law enforcement to do other things, I support.”

RELATED: Police chiefs call for decriminalization of simple drug possession

RELATED: B.C. sets terms to review police role in addiction, mental illness

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also strongly advocated for a shift from criminal sanctions to a health-based approach to dealing with drug addiction. In April, Henry said the province can do more without Ottawa changing the Criminal Code.

“The predominantly criminal-justice-based approach to psychoactive substance use has given the overwhelming balance of power to law enforcement as a policy tool in the context of attempting to prevent harms from substances,” Henry wrote in a report issued April 24.

“If the intention of a prohibition-based system was to protect individuals from harms inherent to substance abuse, then this policy approach has significantly failed to achieve this goal at an individual or population level.”

Horgan emphasized that the federal government and has to lead the way, rather than B.C. further avoiding Criminal Code provisions through police discretion, prescribed opioid trials and supervised drug consumption sites.

“We’ve been doing our level best to reduce dependency, to create opportunities for those who have moments in clarity within their addiction, to be helped,” Horgan said. “I’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister where British Columbia stands.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii resident upcycles glass into ‘quarantini’ tumblers

Faye Laidlaw of Queen Charlotte making tumblers, candleholders to keep glass out of landfill

Kwuna cancels late Monday sailings

BC Ferries making schedule adjustments on Aug. 10 to facilitate arrival of new crew

Power restored for more than 1,300 BC Hydro customers impacted by outage

Outages left hundreds of BC Hydro customers on Haida Gwaii without power on Aug. 9

Haida Gwaii libraries resume inter-branch deliveries

Users can once again access materials from entire Vancouver Island Regional Library system

Masks mandatory in Old Massett as Haida Gwaii COVID cases total 26

Old Massett Village Council says curfew will be enforced with community service

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Infamous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and other destinations

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

COVID-19 could mean curtains for film and TV extras

Background performers worry they’re being replaced by mannequins on film and TV sets

Laid-off B.C. hotel workers begin hunger strike demanding job protection

Laid-off workers not sure what they’ll do when government support programs end

‘Huckleberry’ the bear killed after B.C. residents admit to leaving garbage out for videos

North Shore Black Bear Society said it was local residents who created a ‘death sentence’ for bear

Researchers find cannabis use in pregnancy linked to greater risk of autism

Researchers caution findings only show association — not cause and effect

Small Manitoba town mourning after well-liked teens killed by tornado

Melita residents feeling profound grief after the deaths of Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury

Most Read