Skip to content

B.C. says feds have answers they need, wants urgent decriminalization response

Premier David Eby has asked the federal government to recriminalize drug use in B.C. public spaces
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks says the decision about whether to recriminalize drug use in British Columbia needs to be made urgently, but she’s still waiting for more information from the province before making a call. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Premier David Eby said B.C. has already responded to an urgent request for new information from Ottawa on the issue of decriminalization.

But that did not stop B.C. United from questioning the pace and substance of the proposed change, or renewing calls to end decriminalization.

On Friday, B.C. asked the federal government to make illicit drug use illegal in all public spaces including parks, hospitals and on transit. Decriminalization currently prohibits police from arresting, charging or seizing adults in possession of up to 2.5 grams of heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, MDMA or fentanyl.

The three-year program started on Jan. 31, 2023 after Ottawa had issued the exemption in May 2022 following B.C.’s initial request in November 2021. But B.C. is now asking for changes following months of pressure from police, municipal officials and the political opposition.

Federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks Wednesday (May 1) told reporters in Ottawa that the federal government needs more information from B.C. regarding its request to revise the terms of decriminalization. Saks said she’s asked B.C. to respond to Ottawa’s questions quickly, but would not say what information she’s requested.

“We provided them with some more information about the development of our substance use system of care, we provided them with our data snapshot that’s on our website, some information about potential direction to police,” Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s mental health and addictions minister, later said.

Eby then echoed Whiteside during Question Period. He and Whiteside, also put more pressure on Ottawa to respond quickly.

“I expect that senior officials will work through those issues. But…frankly, we do need Health Canada to respond quickly to the request that we made Friday,” Whiteside.

The issue of decriminalization once again dominated Question Period, with questions about Ottawa’s request for information setting up rhetorical questions about why government won’t simply end decriminalization. B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon tabled a private member’s bill to end decriminalization.

-with files from Canadian Press

RELATED: Urgent push for recriminalization answer awaits B.C. reply: Ottawa

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
Read more