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

<em>Black Press file photo</em>
Water Quality Advisory in effect for Kitimat

The advisory is due to increased turbidity levels in the Kitimat River

Bob Rypma, left, and Jim Tiviotdale, former and current Kitimat Flying Club presidents, respectively, standing on the moss-covered runway at the Kitimat Air Park, which will be redone in the coming year thanks to a grant approved by the BC Airports Access Program. (Clare Rayment photo)
Kitimat Air Park to get major refurbishment, helipad

The club has been in the process of applying for the grant for two years, including two applications

WorkSafeBC is investigating after a death at a Kitimat concrete plant last Friday (Oct. 23) (Black Press file photo)
BC Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC investigating after death at Kitimat worksite

The fatality occurred last Friday (Oct. 23) and investigations into the incident are underway

Louise Avery is the longest serving Curator and Director at the Kitimat Museum. Here, she’s standing in front of the new Haisla Heritage Section, which they worked hard on with Haisla members and organizations to ensure it was an accurate and respectful display of artifacts.
In Our Valley: Louise Avery

Louise Avery has been the Director and Curator at the Kitimat Museum for over 24 years

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read