Ottawa ‘urgently’ waiting for info from B.C. before deciding on drug recriminalization

By The Canadian Press and CityNews Staff

Federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks says the decision about whether to recriminalize drug use in B.C.’s public spaces needs to be made urgently, but she’s still waiting for more information from the province before making a call.

The province is one year into a three-year pilot project to decriminalize possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs, including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

Last week, B.C. Premier David Eby asked Health Canada to recriminalize the use of those drugs in public spaces, including hospitals and parks.

Saks says she asked B.C. to respond to Ottawa’s questions quickly, but would not say what information she requested.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says Eby and B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside have since spoken to Saks and the prime minister.

“It’s our expectation that the federal government will act expeditiously. And really, it’s hard for me to imagine that them not acting would be based on them ‘not having information,’ because frankly, we’re providing them all the information we have,” said Dix. “And that commitment is from the premier on down.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre posted a letter to social media Thursday asking that Trudeau reject Toronto’s own longstanding request to extend its decriminalization pilot. Toronto Public Health said in a statement Monday that it is monitoring B.C.’s experience, and that in its proposed model, public drug use would remain illegal.

Matsqui Conservative MP Brad Vis says the federal addictions minister needs to visit B.C. to see the toll decriminalization is having on areas like parks visited by families and kids.

“She needs to do what Pierre Poilievre is doing, and go and meet with the people — go to every community like he’s doing every month and hear from British Columbians who have had enough,” Vis claimed.

The B.C. government said last week it is bringing in “several new measures” which will focus on “providing police with more tools to address public safety while offering support and access to treatment for people living with addictions.”

The province is stressing that these measures do not recriminalize drug possession in private homes or places where someone is legally sheltering. Drug possession will also not be criminalized at overdose prevention sites and drug-checking locations.

-With files from Raynaldo Suarez, Charles Brockman, Hana Mae Nassar and Cormac Mac Sweeney

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