Photo credit: Canadian Press
VANCOUVER, BC—This weekend at the NDP’s annual convention in Victoria members unanimously passed an important resolution calling for the decriminalization of the personal possession of drugs and increased funding and support for the distribution of safe, legal forms of opioids. This is an unprecedented and important statement made by members of the provincial NDP underscoring the dire need to act to save lives across the province.
“This is good news and shows that the membership of the NDP are very clear about what action needs to take place,” said Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. “Our question now is: when will we see action on these issues?”
“Four people a day continue to die in British Columbia as a result of the toxic drug supply, and we need action now.”
~Donald MacPherson, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
The resolution increases the pressure on the provincial government to act immediately and implement necessary reforms to save lives, similar to how the previous BC Liberals declared a Public Health Emergency back in 2016, which allowed for the opening of overdose prevention sites across the province.
The motion was brought forward by at least 10 riding associations and unions calling for life-saving changes to drug laws that currently criminalize substance use and people who use drugs—policies that are contributing to the catastrophic loss of life across British Columbia and Canada more generally.
This past June, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, along with allied organizations, urged the government to amend the Police Act to decriminalize personal possession of drugs. Similar calls have been made by the province’s top medical officials, including Dr. Bonnie Henry who in a lengthy report underscored the urgent need for decriminalization. “The current regulatory regime of prohibition-based drug policy and criminalization does little to address the harms related to substance use, but rather supports an increase in social and health harms, an increase in the potency of illegal drugs, as well as an increase in unsafe drug use, stigma, shame, and discrimination,” she wrote.
We are encouraged by the stated commitment to shift to a public health- and evidence-backed approach to drug policies by turning away from a punitive criminal justice approach. We hope that the provincial government will listen to the wishes of its membership with regard to this issue, which have been unequivocally expressed this weekend.
Since 2016, 4375 people across British Columbia have died from opioid-related causes.
Strategic Communications Manager
Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
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About the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) is a coalition of 50 organizations and 4,000 individuals working to support the development of progressive drug policy grounded in science, guided by public health principles, and respectful of human rights. The CDPC operates as a project within Simon Fraser University under the Centre for Applied Research in Addiction and Mental Health. The CDPC seeks to include people who use drugs and those harmed by the war on drugs in moving toward a healthier Canadian society free of stigma and social exclusion.