A Letter to MP Gord Johns

Mayor Kennedy Stewart's support letter for MP Gord John's Bill C-216

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Brennagh Bailey
February 10, 2022



Yesterday, the B.C. Coroners Service released their annual report showing 2021 as the deadliest year yet from poisoned drugs in the province. As Vancouver residents, we are unfortunately all too familiar with the ongoing opioid crisis. I am sure you would agree that enough is enough. Mayor Kennedy Stewart is determined to tackle this issue, starting with the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of illicit substances within our city boundaries. Passing Bill C-216 will allow Vancouver to move forwards. 

Please take a moment to read the letter below from Mayor Kennedy Stewart to MP Gord Johns:

Dear Gord,

I am writing to express my unconditional support as you table Private Members Bill C-216, the Health-based Approach to Substance Use Act to decriminalize personal possession of drugs.

As Canada continues to fight the dual overdose and COVID-19 health crisis, it is clear there is a glaring disparity in how resources are being provided and that victims of overdose crisis are considered less worthy. Overdose deaths continue to shatter all previous records. This heartbreaking pace meant that over 2,000 lives were cut short in 2021 in British Columbia alone.

We both know decriminalization represents a crucial next step in building a response that is proportionate to the scale of the overdose emergency. Bill C-216 also goes further to address the numerous elements required to slow down the cycle of mental health decline, overdoses, homelessness, and stigma associated with a past or future conviction. Furthermore, I also support Bill C-216’s requirement to expunge criminal records solely related to minor possession convictions. Without it, people will have a much lower chance to be accepted into employment and housing, and get a second chance at life.

As you are aware, Vancouver City Council unanimously adopted a motion to proceed with a Section 56(1) exemption request to Health Canada to decriminalize illicit drugs which would end police seizure of small amounts of illicit substances within our city boundaries. We finalized the application for the federal government’s consideration in late May 2021 and it is currently awaiting a decision from the Minister of Health. I have recently written Minister Duclos and Minister Bennett urging them that they approve Vancouver’s request as soon as possible.

Notwithstanding the fact that Vancouver was the first city in Canada to apply for an exemption, our model is unique because it has the formal endorsement of Vancouver’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver’s Chief of Police, and Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Our commitments to Reconciliation collectively oblige us to address significant inequities among Indigenous communities.

Addressing the complex issues surrounding substance-use disorders and the overdose epidemic will require all levels of government to work together. We must do all that we can to ensure that decriminalization remains front and center as one of the most important policy tools this government has yet to wield in response to this crisis. Thus, I am eager to support your efforts to pass Bill C-216 and would be
pleased to discuss further how we can ensure that this critical issue receives the
attention and support it deserves.

Yours Sincerely,

Kennedy Stewart
Mayor of Vancouver

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