Mayors from seven cities across British Columbia call on the Government of Canada to support Vancouver's application to decriminalize simple possession

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Mark Hosak
June 11, 2021

The following is a statement from the mayors of Burnaby, Kamloops, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, Saanich and Victoria in support of the City of Vancouver's application to Health Canada to decriminalize simple possession:

Mayors from across British Columbia are on the front lines of a worsening overdose crisis that is claiming the lives of thousands of our neighbours. That is why we are adding our voices in support of the City of Vancouver's request to Health Canada to proceed with the "Vancouver Model" of decriminalization of simple possession.

We ask that you approve this application and allow Vancouver to explore this ground-breaking approach to move away from criminal sanctions and towards a health-focussed approach to substance use. An exemption for the City of Vancouver will allow other municipalities to study the impacts of decriminalization and provide a valuable knowledge base to understand this policy as a way to counter the overdose crisis.

The City of Vancouver is not alone in dealing with the severe impacts of a worsening overdose crisis, especially now as we deal with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since January of 2016, the overdose crisis has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 British Columbians, with historically high toxicity levels.

Personal possession and use of drugs is not a criminal justice issue, it is a health issue. But today, due to fear and shame, too many of our neighbours continue to keep their struggles to themselves, putting them at increased risk of overdose and death.

We believe that by approving the Vancouver Model, the City of Vancouver may trial this new approach to tackling the overdose crisis – just as it did in 2003 when it was in the unique position to pilot the first safe-consumption site in Canada.

In addition to supporting Vancouver's application, we want to reaffirm that in addition to this potential new tool this crisis requires multiple overlapping strategies to provide a comprehensive response. We still need more action on access to safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to poison street drugs, expanded harm reduction services, improved primary and mental health supports, flexible pathways to treatment with culturally-appropriate options and stigma-free educational programming.

This is a provincial and national crisis, and while we must all work together on the complex policy responses needed for a successful long-term approach, only your government can act now to approve this one important application.

We urge you to do so.

Mayor of Burnaby Mike Hurley
Mayor of Kamloops Ken Christian
Mayor of Nanaimo Leonard Krog
Mayor of New Westminster Jonathan Coté
Mayor of Port Coquitlam Brad West
Mayor of Saanich Fred Haynes
Mayor of Victoria Lisa Helps

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