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 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

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)
Ranch Musings: Perennial cereals and their potential to heal

Columnist David Zirnhelt shares information about intermediate wheatgrass

Natasha Wasmuth receives her Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Rotary Club of Quesnel 2019-20 president Simon Turner Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo Submitted)
Rotary honours epilepsyQuesnel founder Natasha Wasmuth

The Rotary Club of Quesnel presented Wasmuth with a Paul Harris Fellowship Award

Tony Goulet was elected as the chair of the Quesnel School District board during the board’s Nov. 18 meeting. (File photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel School District outlines where pandemic dollars have gone

The district has spent over $250,000 in government funding to slow the spread of COVID-19

Black Bears are a common sight in the Cariboo, and especially in 2020. (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Bear sightings in Cariboo up in 2020

WildSafeBC received nearly 1,000 reports of black bears in the Cariboo from January to October

College of New Caledonia (CNC) Quesnel Campus Millwright/Machinist instructor Sergio Jorquera demonstrates working with compressed air Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, during Science and Technology Day at the college. CNC is hosting a virtual open house Thursday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to share what the college has to offer. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer File Photo)
College of New Caledonia hosting virtual open house Nov. 26

The online event runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and gives a taste of what it’s like to be a CNC student

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Randy Bell. (File photo)
Former northern B.C. mayoral candidate arrested after allegedly refusing to wear mask

Randy Bell handcuffed and given a warning at Bulkley Valley Credit Union in Smithers

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Most Read