Today the BC Civil Liberties Association joined the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and fifty other organizations to call on the federal government to use the tools at their disposal to decriminalize simple drug possession immediately.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis sweep across Canada, there is a pressing need to adopt evidence-based measures that uphold the health and safety of people who use drugs. In 2016, Canada rightfully declared that drug use is a matter of public health rather than criminal justice, but that declaration is ineffective if drug possession continues to be criminalized. People who use drugs, and particularly those who are homeless or precariously housed, are more likely to have chronic health issues that will increase their risk of experiencing severe complications should they contract COVID-19. It is undoubtedly in the public interest, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the federal government to issue a federal exemption to all people in Canada from section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), which prohibits personal possession of a controlled substance.
Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for bold policy action that meaningfully upholds the health and safety of people who use drugs.