Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks during a press conference in Vancouver on July 4, 2019. A plan by the City of Vancouver to gain Health Canada approval of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs has won support from the mayors of seven other British Columbia cities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks during a press conference in Vancouver on July 4, 2019. A plan by the City of Vancouver to gain Health Canada approval of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs has won support from the mayors of seven other British Columbia cities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. mayors back Vancouver’s bid to decriminalize drugs, urge federal support

The mayors of Victoria, Saanich, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam say they support eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession

A plan by the City of Vancouver to gain Health Canada approval to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs has won support from the mayors of seven other British Columbia cities.

A statement signed by the mayors of Victoria, Saanich, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam says they support the so-called Vancouver Model to eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession and they want the federal government to do the same.

The mayors say they are on the front lines of a worsening overdose crisis that is claiming the lives of thousands of people.

They urge Health Canada to approve what they call the “groundbreaking” approach, saying it will allow other municipalities to study decriminalization and understand it as a way to counter the overdose crisis.

Under the Vancouver Model, the city, police department and regional health authority worked together to set initial thresholds for 15 common illicit drugs and anyone found in possession of less than the threshold amount would not face criminal, financial or administrative penalties.

The mayors say the plan offers a health-focused approach to substance use, allowing users to avoid stigma and more easily seek help for addiction treatment or other services.

Vancouver submitted its final proposal to Health Canada on June 1, making it the first jurisdiction in the country to apply for such an exemption from federal drug laws.

The seven mayors say Vancouver is not alone in dealing with the severe impacts of the overdose crisis, especially when compounded by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” the statement says.

Data from the BC Coroners Service shows 680 people across the province died from toxic illicit drugs between Jan. 1 and April 30 this year.

Since January 2016, the overdose crisis has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 British Columbians, the mayors say.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Decriminalize possessionDrugs

Just Posted

(City of Vernon)
Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
No words to express collective grief: Vernon mayor on 215 buried at residential school

Vernon mayor pens letter to Okanagan Indian Band Chief and council

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Burned-out bathroom could cost Vernon $25K

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ plan going forward

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read