Politics

Lawmaker tables bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar

Vancouver Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies introduced a private member's bill today that would scrap Criminal Code provisions on drug possession, expunge criminal records for the same offence and mandate low-barrier access to a safe supply of medically regulated substances.

MP Don Davies says that current federal policy is causing 'unneeded deaths'

Members of the organization Moms Stop the Harm walk thorough Vancouver's downtown Eastside neighbourhood to mark the five-year anniversary of the start of B.C’s overdose crisis on April 13, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The federal NDP health critic is pitching legislation to decriminalize drug use in Canada, seeking to treat substance use as a health issue during a lethal opioid crisis.

Vancouver Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies introduced a private member's bill today that would scrap Criminal Code provisions on drug possession, expunge criminal records for the same offence and mandate low-barrier access to a safe supply of medically regulated substances.

The legislation is unlikely to reach the debate stage but Davies says current federal policy is causing "unneeded deaths," despite moving in the right direction recently.

Vancouver Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies has introduced a private member's bill that would decriminalize drug use in Canada. (CBC)

The Liberal government has proposed to relax penalties for personal drug possession. It tabled a bill in February that would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences and require police and prosecutors to consider alternative measures for possession cases, including diversion to addiction-treatment programs.

Health Canada is also working with Vancouver on the city's request for exemption from Criminal Code provisions on simple drug possession.

Vancouver has been the epicentre of an opioid crisis that saw British Columbia record more than 1,700 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2020 — the highest ever in a single year — and more than 7,000 deaths since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

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