B.C. health officer calls for more 'safe consumption' sites for hard drug users

'I think it would be a shame if we went back to charging people who are using substances outside because they have no place to go,' Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

B.C. health officer calls for more 'safe consumption' sites for hard drug users
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
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British Columbia Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry is calling for more safe consumption sites to be opened as the province continues to deal with the opioid crisis.

“The public-safety issue has shown us that the increasing number of people who are underhoused, or homeless, who are publicly visible, they need safe places to go and we need our communities to step up and provide the services,” Henry said to the Globe and Mail.

As of today, there are just under 50 overdose-prevention sites in B.C., with less than half allowing users to smoke drugs.

“I think it would be a shame if we went back to charging people who are using substances outside because they have no place to go,” she said. “We need to focus on making sure that people who are more vulnerable have a safe place to go, where they’ll be supported and not die alone in back alleys.”

Premier David Eby recently asked the federal government to end its decriminalization pilot program, which would once again make it illegal to possess and use drugs in public places. The pilot, which was intended to go for three years, made it just 15 months and caused outrage due to increases in public disorder related to open drug use in parks, hospitals, and other spaces.

The health officer for Toronto, a city that has recently put in a bid for the decriminalization of hard drugs, released a statement yesterday regarding the developments in B.C.

“On open public drug use, let me be clear: lighting up a crack pipe on a playground or injecting drugs on the subway is not acceptable and should not be allowed. Selling or trafficking drugs is illegal. But arresting individuals who are carrying drugs for their own personal use isn’t effective,” Eileen de Villa wrote.

“...The model is evidence-informed and aims to reduce harms associated with drug use, promote and provide pathways to treatment and does not sacrifice public safety. This is only ONE tool that is necessary to address the crises we are currently facing.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested on Wednesday that the feds will not work with Toronto to decriminalize the possession of drugs, and instead will work with the provincial Progressive Conservative government.

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