B.C. reveals plan for decriminalization of small amounts of drugs for personal use
British Columbians are getting a clearer picture of what the province’s three-year plan to decriminalize small amounts of certain illicit drugs for personal use will look like when it launches Tuesday.
As part of a first-in-Canada pilot project, people aged 18 and older can legally possess a combined 2.5 grams of illegal drugs, including opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA.
Last May, the federal government granted B.C. an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Under it, adults will no longer be arrested, criminally charged or have their drugs seized if they’re found carrying a small amount for personal use. B.C. had originally requested a threshold of 4.5 grams, but Ottawa said it decided on a lower amount after speaking with law enforcement agencies.
‘A MONUMENTAL SHIFT IN DRUG POLICY’
Carolyn Bennett and Jennifer Whiteside, the federal and provincial ministers of mental health and addictions, along with B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry broke down the program’s rollout during a news conference Monday morning.
Bennet describes the exemption as “a monumental shift in drug policy that favours fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalization.”
Her provincial counterpart says substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal justice one.
“Decriminalizing people who use drugs is a critical step in tackling the toxic drug crisis. It will help break down the stigma, fear and shame around substance use that prevents people from accessing life-saving services,” Whiteside said during the announcement.
More than 10,000 British Columbians have died from illicit drug overdose since a public health emergency was first declared in 2016.
“Decriminalization is a historic change, but we know it will not solve the toxic drug crisis on its own. This is one tool in the province's fight against this ongoing public health emergency.”
The Canadian Institute for Health Information is expected to spend nearly $3 million as the oversight committee tasked with monitoring the program and analyzing data for the federal and B.C. governments.
“We are committed to a dashboard quarterly that will be updated for Canadians,” Bennett said.
POLICING UNDER THE NEW POLICY
Over 140,000 resource cards have been printed and distributed to police agencies and public health agencies in preparation of the policy change, according to a Health Canada official. The cards are to be handed out to drug users who are found to possess small amounts of illicit drugs.
Two-thirds of the 9,000 frontline officers who have been offered training in preparation of the policy change have already completed it, according to Whiteside. That includes members of the BC RCMP, Metro Vancouver Transit Police and the Vancouver Police Department.
The province says additional staff has been hired in each health authority to liaise with people who have been referred by police.
Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson, the vice president of the B.C Association of Chiefs of Police, says the exemption will allow front line officers to “focus on those doing the most harm in the overdose crisis: persons and organized crime groups who manufacture and distribute these toxic substances.”
PROTECTING YOUNG PEOPLE
Whiteside says one of the province’s top priorities is to protect children and youth while implementing this exemption.
“We want parents to know that we are always discouraging youth from experimenting with drugs,” she said, adding resources are being prepared for parents and schools to talk to kids about decriminalization.
Possession on the premises of elementary and secondary schools, licensed child-care facilities, at airports, and on Canadian Coast Guard vessels and helicopters is a criminal offence.
Since the province’s exemption is not legalization, illicit drugs will not be sold in stores and drug trafficking of any amount is still against the law.
Since the province’s exemption is not legalization, illicit drugs will not be sold in stores and drug trafficking of any amount is still against the law.
The exemption does not change Canada's border rules and taking any amount of illegal drugs across domestic and international borders remains illegal.
Bennett warned the import, export, production or sale of drugs could still land people in jail.
Insp. Conor King with the Victoria Police Department said many police departments stopped pursuing charges for simple possession years ago. He said once decriminalization kicks in, drugs won’t be seized either.
“We're hoping those interactions will be non-criminal and positive in nature so we can stop these overdose deaths,” King told CTV News.
CALLS FOR SAFER SUPPLY
While advocates for drug users have long pushed for decriminalization, many say that without access to safe supply people will keep dying.
For six months, Drug User Liberation Front, an organization created in the wake of the overdose crisis, has sold drugs made and tested in B.C. to members at cost.
The group says a review has found of the 40 people included in the so-called compassion club model, none have died.
Co-founder Jeremy Kalicum said many of the drug users have reported they are using less, and overdosing less.
The unsanctioned trial doesn’t have federal approval, but Kalicum said it’s an example of how well a safer supply system could work.
“Decriminalization as a response to overdoses is a drop in the bucket,” he told CTV News. “But it is an indicator that there's political … and social will to make steps to address this, which is great.”
The province has undertaken many firsts in responding to the health care emergency, and decriminalization is seen as part of that.
“This is one tool in the province’s fight in this ongoing public health emergency.” said Whiteside.
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada makes amendments to foreign homebuyers ban – here's what they look like
Months after Canada's ban on foreign homebuyers took effect on Jan. 1, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has made several amendments to the legislation allowing non-Canadians to purchase residential properties in certain circumstances.
'Leave this with me': Alberta premier heard on call with COVID-19 protester
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in a leaked cellphone call, commiserated with a COVID-19 protester about his trial while divulging to him there was an internal dispute over how Crown prosecutors were handling COVID-19 cases.
What is the grocery rebate in federal budget 2023? Key questions, answered
To help offset rising living expenses, the Government of Canada has introduced a one-time grocery rebate for low- and modest-income Canadians. Here is what we know about the rebate.
RCMP arrest 5 while executing search warrant at Wet'suwet'en protest camp
RCMP officers executed a search warrant at a protest camp on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory near the under-construction Coastal GasLink pipeline Wednesday.
'Compostable' food packaging may contain hazardous 'forever chemicals': Canadian study
As Canada phases out single-use plastics, more restaurants are opting to use 'compostable' takeout containers. But a new study suggests some of these supposedly eco-friendly containers may pose hazards to our health and the environment.
Could Usain Bolt outrun a 900-pound dinosaur? Physics professor poses the question
A new academic paper pits legendary sprinter Usain Bolt against a 900-pound dinosaur to see who could run a 100-metre distance the fastest.
Recalled in Canada: Change tables over entrapment hazard, hoodies due to risk of choking
Health Canada has issued two recalls, one for change tables over an entrapment hazard and another for bamboo nursing hoodies due to a risk of choking.
Many Canadians like to tell 'white lies' about home-cooked meals: survey
Have you ever had to lie about the quality of a home-cooked meal to protect someone's feelings? According to a new survey by Research Co. you’re not the only one.
Spending to increase economic capacity is fiscally responsible, Freeland says in post-budget defence
Defending her latest federal budget, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said spending that increases economic capacity is fiscally responsible.
IIO investigating after man driving construction vehicle shot, seriously injured by police in Duncan, B.C.
A man was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a police shooting in Duncan, B.C., on Tuesday evening.
Police investigating 'targeted' attempted arson at home in Saanich
Police are investigating what they believe was a targeted arson attack at a home north of Victoria.
B.C. parents win battle to put son's Indigenous name on his birth certificate
After 13 months of fighting, the parents of a Campbell River, B.C., boy have received a birth certificate that accurately reflects the spelling of his name.
‘I started breaking down:’ Friends remember 15-year-old homicide victim
A 15-year-old girl shot to death in the community of Martindale early Tuesday morning, has now been identified by friends and police as Sarah Alexis Jorquera.
Woman in custody, charges pending following Lions Park LRT station stabbing
Calgary police say they've arrested a woman in connection with a stabbing at the Lions Park LRT station that stemmed from a fight between several people.
Calgary archaeologist launches foundation to support female field researchers
A Calgary archaeologist wants to help more women get out in the field by launching the Fair Field Foundation, an organization to break barriers women often face.
Online video between Danielle Smith and Artur Pawlowski raises questions over interference
In an online video, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is heard speaking with outspoken Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski, creating questions about her influence on Alberta court cases.
Man found dead in SUV, Edmonton homicide detectives on the case
Police are looking for help in the suspicious death of a man found in a vehicle in north Edmonton Wednesday morning.
'Serious labour shortage' holding Alberta's tourism sector back: industry advocates
Alberta's tourism sector has a "serious labour shortage" that can threaten its long-term viability, a new labour study has found.
BREAKING | Man pulled from house fire in Toronto's Junction Triangle dies in hospital
A man is dead after being pulled from a fire at a home in Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood.
A rare weather phenomenon strikes southern Ontario again
Thundersnow has struck southern Ontario for a second time this month.
Why is there no cell service on the TTC? Riders say it could increase safety
The Toronto Transit Commission signed a deal in 2012 to provide cellular service on the subway network, but over a decade later, few are able to make a call in an emergency—something the TTC board members, riders and parents say has to change in the wake of the death of Gabriel Magalhaes.
Bill 15: Quebec tables legislation to overhaul health system
The CAQ government has unveiled its long-promised plan to improve Quebec's public health network. Tabled at the Quebec legislature Wednesday by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Bill 15 promises a major shakeup.
'I lost a brother': Funeral held for teen who died in Old Montreal fire
Almost two weeks after his death, a funeral was held in Laval Wednesday for a teenager who died in the fire in Old Montreal.
Flooded and fed up: St-Leonard homeowners file class-action suit over heavy rain damages
A group of homeowners in St-Leonard has filed a class-action lawsuit against their borough and the City of Montreal, claiming municipal authorities are to blame for repeated floodings during heavy rain.
Manitobans should prepare for a gas price hike according to an expert
Come the weekend, Manitobans will be paying more for gas and the price could climb even higher in the coming weeks and months according to a gas expert.
Brandon pauses public engagement on 30-year vision over 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour'
The City of Brandon has paused its public consultation on its 30-year plan for the city due to 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour' from some residents.
Manitoba family launches lawsuit over COVID-19 vaccination
A Manitoba family has launched a lawsuit alleging their 23-year-old son had a stroke days after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving him legally blind.
Saskatoon police release video of 3 people placing 'large container' in dumpster where body was found
Saskatoon Police Service is asking for the public’s help in identifying three individuals they believe are connected to a suspicious death.
Saskatoon murder trial on hold as police investigate new revelations
A Saskatoon murder trial is being adjourned to allow police to follow-up on "significant information" that just came to the Crown prosecutor's attention Wednesday.
Dog that attacked five-year-old Saskatoon boy involved in three other attacks
CTV News has learned a dog that attacked a five-year-old boy last week had been declared dangerous in February 2022, but the city had lost track of the owner a year ago.
City council waiting for next steps in Experience Regina rebrand
The City of Regina is waiting for an update regarding the next steps for the Experience Regina rebrand.
Regina's Dewdney Avenue strip to undergo 2 year renovation project
The Dewdney Avenue strip between Broad Street and Albert Street is about to undergo a major two year renovation project.
Saskatchewan to spend $6 million for some hip and knee surgeries in Calgary
The Saskatchewan government is set to spend up to $6 million to send patients to Calgary for hip and knee surgeries.
N.S. mass shooting inquiry report must deliver 'clear commentary': family lawyer
A lawyer who represents Nova Scotia mass shooting victims' families said in an interview they are hoping "for clear commentary on what things went wrong and what things ought to have been done better or differently."
Cold front to sweep mix of snow, rain across the Maritimes Thursday
A low-pressure system moving north of the St. Lawrence River valley will sweep a cold front across the Maritimes on Thursday.
How Portapique residents past and present are dealing with reminders of the 2020 mass shooting
The eve of the release of the final report from the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting is a reminder for residents of Portapique of their small community’s traumatic past.
Coyote encounter unnerves woman
An evening walk along the trails of Westminster Ponds in southeast London, Ont. turned into a frantic scene for Denise Singh and her two dogs.
Over a dozen dogs 'dumped' across Huron and Perth Counties
More than a dozen dogs were abandoned across Huron and Perth Counties on March 23 and 24, and local dog lovers are furious about it.
2,700 cattle escape $2-million barn fire
Damage is estimated at $2-million after a barn and grass fire in southeast London on Tuesday.
Northern Ont. family ‘ecstatic’ as 25-year-old murder mystery finally solved
Robert Steven Wright was convicted Wednesday of murdering Renee Sweeney, a little more than 25 years after her brutal killing shocked the community.
B.C. man pleads guilty to northern Ont. shooting, Crown drops attempted murder charge
A man who admitted to shooting up a home in Greater Sudbury in 2020 over a drug theft pled guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Driver caught travelling 200km/hr on major Ontario highway
A 20-year-old has been charged with careless driving after travelling double the speed limit on a major Ontario highway.
'Fairly emotional for everybody': Teen struck by LRT visits emergency crews who rescued him
Several weeks after a teen was stuck under an LRT train in Kitchener, he’s now up and walking and visited the emergency crews who helped rescue him.
Cambridge municipal election candidate suing city after names left off ballot
A retired political science professor says he was “stunned” by the way the Cambridge municipal election unfolded.
Businesses weigh in on government’s plan to reduce credit card fees
The federal government is touting plans to help small businesses by reducing credit card fees, but some local merchants say while they welcome the measure, the actual impact it will have on their operations will be minimal.