A Vernon city councillor’s hopes to urge Ottawa to declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency and decriminalize simple drug possession was dashed after his colleagues defeated the motion Monday, in a 5-2 vote.
Coun. Kelly Fehr brought the motion forward during the March 8 meeting of council underscoring that it was in response to a poisoned drug supply.
“Lives continue to be lost at record-breaking numbers due to the overdose crisis,” Fehr wrote in his rationale, pointing to the staggering 1,548 illicit drug deaths in the province in 2020 according to the BC Coroner Services report.
“It is clear that new approaches and additional actions are needed to adequately address this crisis,” Fehr wrote. “The recommendations in this report are actions that Vernon can take to help.”
Coun. Scott Anderson provided a four-page document detailing reasons he couldn’t support Fehr’s motion.
Among his reasons, Anderson said he didn’t want to burden municipal staff or taxpayers with a provincial responsibility and he worried declaring a health emergency would give the federal government “dictatorial” power.
“We’ve already seen the economic and social devastation this can wreak on the general populace on a provincial level and I have no desire whatsoever to subject the citizens of Canada to another display like this,” Anderson said. He was the only one of the five councillors against the motion who spoke to it.
Council defeated the motion with only Fehr and Mayor Victor Cumming in favour.