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Federal NDP stands for decriminalization of small-amount drug possession

Trudeau says his government supports community-led solutions. | House of Commons vote on Bill C-216 was defeated: 71 for & 248 against

Wednesday June 1, 2022 | NATIONAL [Last updated 2:25 pm Pacific]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


NDP critic for mental health and harm reduction, Gord Johns (a Vancouver Island MP, representing Courtenay-Alberni), has recently introduced a private member’s bill (C-216) to offer a national solution to the public health crisis that claimed the lives of 27,000 Canadians in the past six years.

Gord Johns, MP
NDP MP Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni)

Johns — together with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — was joined by a member of Moms Stop the Harm advocacy group today in Ottawa, to speak about the need to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs and help Canadians with a health-based approach to substance use.

Johns’ bill will be voted on by members of all parties in the House of Commons on June 1, following Question Period.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP critic for mental health and harm reduction, Gord Johns, in Ottawa June 1, 2022.

There are three reasons to support the bill, as outlined by Singh today:

  • To take a health-based approach, not criminalization.
  • To have a national strategy on safe supply.
  • To effect expungement so that stigma is reduced.

Bill C-216:

Bill C-216 is An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to enact the Expungement of Certain Drug-related Convictions Act and the National Strategy on Substance Use Act.

Gord Johns has been touring the country for the last number of months about the need for passage of this bill.

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BC receives exemption for 3 years:

horgan, jdf, constituency, office

On May 31, 2022 the federal government announced that in British Columbia there will be a three-year exemption to decriminalize possession of some illegal drugs for personal use.

The federal NDP are now hoping there will be a supportive vote in the House of Commons today, for the benefit of people across Canada.

Prime Minister’s comments:

In the House of Commons today June 1, 2022, during question period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in response to a question from the NDP Leader) said decriminalization is the right approach.

But he further articulated that it requires working together with local and provincial jurisdictions (in their delivery of health care and other wrap-around supports) in order to transition responsibly to decriminalization.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Question Period in the House of Commons, June 1, 2022.

Trudeau spoke highly of the level of organization and system delivery in BC, with regard to the management of health-related issues and emergencies resulting from toxic substance use.

He later said — still during question period — that the federal government supports “community-led solutions” regarding decriminalization within a health-care context. He noted that the federal government is “working hand in hand with the BC Government” in communities and the local health-care system.

This is not so much a criticism of the federal NDP Bill C-216 but more of a pitch to other provincial governments to essentially get their act together on their community-based and health-care framework for dealing with substance use by their populations — as has been done in BC.

Final vote:

Indeed, the final vote on Bill C-216 failed at 12:50 pm (Pacific) by a vote in the House of Commons. There were 71 votes in favour (NDP and others) and 248 against.

Johns said in an NDP news release after the vote: “It’s unthinkable the government would reject a bill that would reduce the stigma of substance use so that those who use drugs would be able to seek help.” He points out that the proposed bill would call for a low barrier, regulated safety supply, improved prevention and education efforts, and ensuring universal access to treatment and recovery services.

“It doesn’t make sense to say ‘yes’ to BC and leave the rest of the country behind,” said Johns. The exemption in BC is temporary (three years), even with BC having the highest death toll due to substance use deaths (a lot of that having to do with toxic supply, as pointed out by the BC Coroners Service this spring).

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===== RELATED:

BC gets exemption to decriminalize possession of some illegal drugs for personal use (May 31, 2022)

BC Coroners panel calls for safer drug supply, continuum of care (March 9, 2022)

BC drug crisis: time to think outside the box with urgency (March 9, 2022)

Worker drug-poisoning prevention led by Vancouver Island construction industry (January 13, 2022)

Deaths from illicit toxic drugs skyrocket in BC (June 30, 2021)