BC's request to have hard drug use in public spaces recriminalized approved

Over 14,000 individuals have been killed by toxic drugs since the declaration of the public health crisis. In BC, the rate of overdose fatalities has doubled compared to 2016.

BC's request to have hard drug use in public spaces recriminalized approved
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang and The Canadian Press / Ethan Cairns
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Trudeau's Minister of Addictions and Mental Health Ya'ara Saks announced on Tuesday that the Liberals would approve the Government of British Columbia's request to recriminalize the use of hard drugs in public spaces, CBC reports.

The failed pilot program lasted just over a year and allowed adults to carry up to 2.5 grams of drugs for personal use without fear of criminal charges. The program operated through an exemption granted by Health Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Premier David Eby requested two weeks ago for the exemption to be adjusted after the use of drugs in public spaces reached a breaking point.

The request has been approved and will take place immediately.

The province has been in a public health emergency related to hard drugs for eight years, with Eby calling the situation "catastrophic."

Over 14,000 individuals have been killed by toxic drugs since the declaration of the public health crisis. In BC, the rate of overdose fatalities has doubled compared to 2016.

2023 saw 2,511 toxic drug deaths in the province, a new record.

B.C.'s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe renewed her plea in early April for the expansion of "safer supply" as a solution to the crisis.

"Each day, coroners across B.C. go into communities and retrieve the bodies of the dead. More than 2,500 families who lost a loved one this year didn't know they'd be among the statistics. How many more will join these statistics next year?" she asked, according to the CBC.

“Decriminalization is not responsible for these deaths, illicit fentanyl is,” Lapointe claimed.

Last month, Toronto requested that drugs be decriminalized for all, including youth.

"The data show that youth in Toronto between the ages of 12 and 17 use unregulated drugs and are vulnerable to the same harms associated with criminalization as adults," they wrote.

The opposition Conservatives warned that the exemption would lead to "chaos" and "despair." While no decision has formally been made, Tuesday's decision, along with comments made by Trudeau last week, suggests that the request is dead in the water.

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