Mayor Kennedy Stewart is introducing a motion, that if passed, would decriminalize the simple possession of illicit drugs in Vancouver.
Stewart made the announcement on Wednesday morning, alongside Dr. Patricia Daly, Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) Chief Medical Health Officer.
“It’s not a criminal issue, it’s a health issue,” he told reporters, adding that the initiative is “long overdue.”
The motion will be discussed with Vancouver City Council during next week’s meeting, although he notes that decriminalization “is not a silver bullet.”
If passed, the City of Vancouver will reach out to the federal government to “decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances within the City’s boundaries for medical purposes.”
The next steps would include working with VCH and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to determine how the policy would be implemented within the city.
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Stewart adds that this motion “does not include legislative change” or the need to go through the House of Commons or Senate.
“This can be done by a Cabinet order or in some cases the Federal Health Minister can order this to happen,” he explains. “That’s what happened with supervised consumption sites.”
Vancouver would also become the first Canadian jurisdiction to decriminalize the personal possession of illicit substances.
Stewart adds that there have been more than 1500 overdose fatalities in Vancouver since the Provincial Overdose Emergency was declared in 2016. There have also been approximately 328 deaths in the city this year, with 2020 on track to be the worst year yet.
More to come…