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

COVID-19 exposure alert at Cactus Club in downtown Kelowna

Interior Health also reported another three cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna, bringing the total to 161

Kelowna’s Fall Activity Guide now available online

COVID-19 guidelines and safety protocols will be in place at all times to ensure the health and safety of all participants

Wildfire sparked at Stuart Creek near Westside Road

An air tanker has been requested, according to BC Wildfire

UPDATE: House fire spreads to bush off Westside

Small blaze burning near Vernon in Six Mile area

Petition calls on Central Okanagan School District to make masks mandatory

“If masks do not become mandatory in schools, children will get sick” - Sorsha Perry

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

COVID-19 outbreak at South Okanagan farm declared over

There continues to be other community exposure events in the Interior Health region

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

VIDEO: Revelstoke rallies to save snared eagle

Local climber scales tree to save the raptor

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Most Read