British Columbia

Vancouver council unanimously approves motion to seek decriminalization of drug possession

Vancouver city councillors have voted unanimously in favour of a motion to ask the federal government for the legal power to decriminalize simple possession of illicit drugs.

If approved by Ottawa, city would become first in Canada to decriminalize simple possession

Paramedics and first responders work to save a person suspected of having a drug overdose. In B.C., 1,386 people have died of illicit drug overdose this year. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver city councillors have voted unanimously in favour of a motion to ask the federal government for the legal power to decriminalize simple possession of illicit drugs.

The vote Wednesday night means the city will ask the federal government for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow the possession of small amounts of illegal substances within the city's boundaries.

If successful, Vancouver will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to decriminalize simple possession.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Wednesday that he was grateful for the support of councillors, as well as the advocacy of drug users and their allies who have been pushing for decriminalization for years.

"On the same day that the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that a person a day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives," Stewart said in a written statement.

"If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver."

The vote comes after the B.C. Coroners Service released new statistics on the overdose crisis that show 162 people died of drug toxicity and fentanyl across the province last month, marking the eighth straight month with more than 100 dead.

It's now been more than four years since a public health emergency was declared in B.C. in response to the overdose crisis. So far this year, there have been 1,386 illicit drug deaths in the province.

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