B.C. health minister says reducing ‘stigma’ of drug abuse key to solving addiction crisis

The province was recently forced to recriminalize drug use in public spaces after increasing safety concerns and community outcry.

B.C. health minister says reducing ‘stigma’ of drug abuse key to solving addiction crisis
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British Columbia's Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked by the CBC's Rosemary Barton yesterday if he thinks the province's drug decriminalization project has been a failure.

The question comes as the province reverses decriminalization efforts and opts to re-criminalize drug use in public spaces due to mounting safety concerns and public outcry.

When asked if he believes the decriminalization project has failed, Dix replied, "No, it means that we're making adjustments...we're taking these actions to ensure that public safety is protected. Drugs will continue to be decriminalized in people's homes."

The province's drug decriminalization pilot project — launched in 2023 — allows for the possession of up to 2.5 grams of hard drugs such as methamphetamine and heroin.

Critics of the bill point to increasing drug use and unruly behaviour in public spaces like parks and hospitals as evidence the project is unsustainable.

B.C.'s "safe supply" drug policies have also been put under the microscope as of late. Authorities have confirmed that significant quantities of the legally obtained "safer supply" drugs are now being sold on the black market.

One addictions worker even estimates that about 90% of the "safe supply" drugs his patients obtain are re-sold on the black market, according to The Bureau.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith recently criticized B.C.'s "safe supply" policies in response to a question from Rebel News' Alex Dhaliwal.

Speaking further about the decriminalization project, Dix said, "We think we need to reduce the stigma. The drug supply is toxic and that really kicked up during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"So we have to take every step possible to assist people and that's what we're doing," he added.

The project also faced criticism after it was revealed a memo sent to Vancouver Island acute-care staff instructed nurses to allow patients to openly use hard drugs in hospitals.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for an end to the government-funded "safer supply" strategy, arguing that it exacerbates the overdose crisis. 

The Liberals' $1 billion Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy has yielded no tangible results and overdoses have raged on since its inception, making neighbourhoods and communities increasingly unsafe

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