Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Drug users were shut out of Vancouver’s decriminalization proposal, critics say, demanding redo

The coalition is asking the city to raise the proposed drug thresholds from a 3-day supply

Advocates are calling on the federal government and the City of Vancouver to halt the march toward possible drug decriminalization in the city, saying the process excludes users and requires a do-over.

In a letter to federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and the Vancouver and British Columbia working groups on decriminalization, a coalition of 15 organizations says the current proposal to Ottawa must be scrapped immediately or risks reproducing the harms of prohibition.

The group also says police have an oversized role in developing the so-called “Vancouver model” and that the thresholds that define simple possession are too low in the latest submission.

Health Canada is currently working with Vancouver on the city’s request for exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs.

Vancouver has been the epicentre of an opioid crisis that saw British Columbia record 1,176 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2020 — the highest ever in a single year — and more than 7,000 deaths since a public-health emergency was declared in April 2016.

The coalition is asking the city to raise the proposed drug thresholds from a three-day supply and demanding the Vancouver Police Department take a backseat in discussions.

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