B.C. Premier John Horgan walks to the rose garden at the B.C. legislature, June 16, 2020. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

B.C. Premier John Horgan has strongly backed a call by national police chiefs to decriminalize simple possession of prohibited drugs.

Horgan said July 9 he is proud to see Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer leading the initiative, as B.C. struggles with the most significant street drug and overdose problems, and the province begins an inquiry into police grappling with mental health and addiction issues.

B.C.’s position as a Pacific Rim country has led to opioid addiction being declared a public health emergency more than five years, and Horgan said his government has done what it can since taking office in 2017 to provide treatment resources and set up a dedicated ministry of mental health and addictions. But with the federal Criminal Code forcing police to treat drug abuse and associated mental health disorders as a crime, the province is limited in what it can do.

“This fundamental question, that Adam Palmer, the Vancouver Police Chief and the head of the national chiefs outlined today, is where I believe we need to go,” Horgan told reporters at the B.C. legislature. “If not now, when? We’re in the midst of a global pandemic when it comes to COVID-19. In British Columbia that is further complicated by an overdose crisis which saw, last month, the highest monthly number of deaths that we’ve seen in a good long time.

“Anything that we can do to reduce the deaths and reduce the dependence, and quite frankly, to free up law enforcement to do other things, I support.”

RELATED: Police chiefs call for decriminalization of simple drug possession

RELATED: B.C. sets terms to review police role in addiction, mental illness

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also strongly advocated for a shift from criminal sanctions to a health-based approach to dealing with drug addiction. In April, Henry said the province can do more without Ottawa changing the Criminal Code.

“The predominantly criminal-justice-based approach to psychoactive substance use has given the overwhelming balance of power to law enforcement as a policy tool in the context of attempting to prevent harms from substances,” Henry wrote in a report issued April 24.

“If the intention of a prohibition-based system was to protect individuals from harms inherent to substance abuse, then this policy approach has significantly failed to achieve this goal at an individual or population level.”

Horgan emphasized that the federal government and has to lead the way, rather than B.C. further avoiding Criminal Code provisions through police discretion, prescribed opioid trials and supervised drug consumption sites.

“We’ve been doing our level best to reduce dependency, to create opportunities for those who have moments in clarity within their addiction, to be helped,” Horgan said. “I’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister where British Columbia stands.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC ACORN report calls on Surrey to help renters

Report contains steps on how the City of Surrey can “ease” the city’s housing crisis

First Police Board meeting Thursday a ‘pivotal moment’ in Surrey’s history, mayor says

The 10 a.m. “virtual” meeting Aug. 6 will be live-streamed and details on tuning in will be available at surrey.ca/policeboard

Parking facility for 100 trucks coming to North Surrey at cost of $30M

‘It’s often difficult to find suitable parking for large transport trucks,’ says association boss

Keno machine shutdown was no tech glitch, it was $50K prize for Surrey woman

Ticket checked at the Panorama Shell store in Surrey

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village

Fraser Health is on site implementing outbreak protocols at the seniors care facility

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

Gangster Jarrod Bacon released from prison for third time

Parole board continues to express concerns about Bacon’s behaviour

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Most Read