The BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) continues to stand in support of the spirit of decriminalization and assisting individuals living with addiction, recognizing the importance of a compassionate and evidence-based approach to ensure individuals receive the care they need. We stand committed in our desire to not criminalize those who use drugs, but to re-direct individuals to alternate pathways of care.
However, over the last several months we heard the significant concerns raised by business leaders, mayors, councils, and individuals in our communities about the impact of public drug consumption on the overall sense of safety and well-being.
As such, the BCACP actively engaged with these stakeholders and advocated for the Provincial Government to urge Health Canada to add additional exceptions to the exemption, while striking a balance that does not criminalize people who use drugs but ensures the safety and security for everyone in our communities, particularly children and youth. In September, the federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and the Associate Minister of Health approved the request for an amendment to the existing subsection 56(1) exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act (CDSA), related to personal possession of illicit drugs. This amendment prohibited the possession of illicit drugs within 15m of public outdoor playgrounds, spray pools, wading pools and skateparks, alongside existing exclusions on possession on the premises of K-12 schools, licensed childcare facilities, and vehicles under certain conditions.
Today, the Province of British Columbia has announced additional measures to help address the growing concerns around public consumption.
The proposed legislation announced today will support front-line police officers with the tools they require to address problematic drug use in public spaces that negatively affect our communities. It is critical to note however, that our officers will use this legislation only when behaviour is problematic.
“We support today’s announcement on new provincial legislation, while also recognizing that we must apply our discretion and utilize the act only when behaviour is problematic or repeated. Our goal is to not criminalize drug users, but to continue to direct people to alternate pathways of care while at the same time supporting our communities sense of safety,” said Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson, Co-Chair of the CACP Drug Advisory Committee and Vice President of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police.
While today’s announcement is a positive step forward, we still strongly urge the provincial government to continue its efforts to increase resources for people who use drugs, as this remains a critical component of the overall success of decriminalization. Providing individuals with access to support and care is essential in addressing the root causes of addiction and substance use disorders. Our commitment to supporting the principles of decriminalization and directing people who use drugs to pathways of care remains steadfast as police in British Columbia recognize the toll on families and communities.
Supt. Todd Preston
President, BC Association of Chiefs of Police
Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson
Vice-President, BC Association of Chiefs of Police and Co-Chair, CACP Drug Advisory Committee