With deaths from drug overdoses continuing at alarming rates across the country, the City of Duncan’s council unanimously voted in support of Bill C-216 at its meeting on April 4.
Bill C-216 is a private members bill that was recently introduced in Parliament by Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni and the NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions.
The bill calls for the decriminalization of the simple possession of drugs, the expungement of criminal records for those convicted of simple possession and the development and implementation of a national health-based strategy to manage the risk of overdose from poisoned substances through access to a regulated safer supply of drugs, as well as the expansion of trauma-based treatment programs for drug users.
Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, sent a letter to council encouraging its members to support the bill.
“Across Canada, from big cities to smaller communities, families have suffered the devastating impact of losing loved ones to an increasingly toxic street supply of illicit drugs,” MacGregor said.
“For too many years, we have watched this crisis consume record numbers of lives in our province of British Columbia. It is time for the federal government to step up and address this with bold new policy. With this bill, my NDP colleagues and l are calling for an evidence-based approach that stops treating drug users as criminals and instead helps them get the help they need.”
At Duncan’s council meeting, Coun. Carol Newington said she thinks it’s very important that council backs Bill C-216.
She said the city has to do all that’s possible to mitigate any more damage being done to people by illicit drugs.
“The number of people lost [to drug overdoses] over the last year is just astounding,” Newington said.
“We need to have a safe supply of drugs and get drug dealers away from giving out bad drugs, and this is a first step in that direction. I know a lot of people are against this, but who am I to deny somebody getting help?”
Coun. Tom Duncan, who made the motion to support Bill C-216, said the province has lost almost four times as many people to illicit drug overdoses than to COVID-19.
“This is an epidemic that has been going on since 2016 and has been declared a health emergency,” he said.
“We have to do all we can to make sure our brothers and sisters don’t end up dying from poisoned drugs.”
Coun. Stacy Middlemiss said supplying drug users with a regulated safer supply of drugs would draw them into using services they wouldn’t ordinarily use.
“Having them checking in daily and building relationships with [service providers] would be a good thing,” she said.
“I see a lot of positives in this and it is an important next step.”