B.C.’s municipalities push for expanding drug prohibitions where children gather

By The Canadian Press

Local politicians from across British Columbia will vote this week on resolutions involving drug decriminalization, including expanding prohibitions on possession and use to parks, bus stops, sports fields and other places children gather.

Another resolution facing a vote at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver asks the province to better fund mental health and addiction treatment, recovery services, overdose prevention and access to safe supply and drug testing

The resolution says there’s currently inadequate money to ensure the safety of people who use illicit drugs.

Both resolutions will go to a vote on Wednesday, with the funding proposal already endorsed by the group’s resolutions committee, which hasn’t taken a position on expanding prohibition zones.

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The moves come after the federal government approved changes of a pilot project launched in B.C. earlier this year that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.

The changes that came into force today prohibit possession within 15 metres of a park or child-focused space.

The five-day Union of B.C. Municipalities convention launched Monday with an opening session that included provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry discussing drug decriminalization and public drug use.

The proposed UBCM resolution on the issue urges the province to introduce Fall 2023 legislation to further regulate the “possession and use” of illicit drugs where children gather.

“(Concerns) have been raised by local governments since the pilot project began in January 2023 on the public use of illicit drugs in child-focused spaces such as parks and playgrounds,” the resolution says.

Intoxication in all public places remains illegal.

More than 2,000 people are registered to attend the annual gathering of elected municipal leaders that concludes Friday with a speech by Premier David Eby.

UBCM president Jen Ford says the convention comes as communities tackle wildfires, housing woes, mental health and addictions, with some facing multiple emergencies.

She says municipal leaders are looking to the province to ease bureaucracy to access funds to make their communities safer from wildfires.

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