Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks during a press conference in Vancouver on July 4, 2019. A plan by the City of Vancouver to gain Health Canada approval of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs has won support from the mayors of seven other British Columbia cities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks during a press conference in Vancouver on July 4, 2019. A plan by the City of Vancouver to gain Health Canada approval of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs has won support from the mayors of seven other British Columbia cities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. mayors back Vancouver’s bid to decriminalize drugs, urge federal support

The mayors of Victoria, Saanich, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam say they support eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession

A plan by the City of Vancouver to gain Health Canada approval to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs has won support from the mayors of seven other British Columbia cities.

A statement signed by the mayors of Victoria, Saanich, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam says they support the so-called Vancouver Model to eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession and they want the federal government to do the same.

The mayors say they are on the front lines of a worsening overdose crisis that is claiming the lives of thousands of people.

They urge Health Canada to approve what they call the “groundbreaking” approach, saying it will allow other municipalities to study decriminalization and understand it as a way to counter the overdose crisis.

Under the Vancouver Model, the city, police department and regional health authority worked together to set initial thresholds for 15 common illicit drugs and anyone found in possession of less than the threshold amount would not face criminal, financial or administrative penalties.

The mayors say the plan offers a health-focused approach to substance use, allowing users to avoid stigma and more easily seek help for addiction treatment or other services.

Vancouver submitted its final proposal to Health Canada on June 1, making it the first jurisdiction in the country to apply for such an exemption from federal drug laws.

The seven mayors say Vancouver is not alone in dealing with the severe impacts of the overdose crisis, especially when compounded by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We still need more action on access to safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to poison street drugs, expanded harm reduction services, improved primary and mental health supports, flexible pathways to treatment with culturally appropriate options and stigma-free educational programming,” the statement says.

Data from the BC Coroners Service shows 680 people across the province died from toxic illicit drugs between Jan. 1 and April 30 this year.

Since January 2016, the overdose crisis has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 British Columbians, the mayors say.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Decriminalize possessionDrugs

Just Posted

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

This bird’s eye view shows the tanker truck fire on Highway 24. Black smoke could be seen from a far distance. (Photo submitted by Kurtis Rainer)
RCMP respond to tanker fire in Little Fort

The Clearwater detachment responded to 37 calls this past week.

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

logo
Evacuation alert issued for residents south of Lytton

The TNRD Emergency Operations Centre in Kamloops says a wildfire in the area poses a threat to structures and residents.

Most Read