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Coalition of drug user groups wants court to quash B.C. drug ‘recriminalization’

VANCOUVER — A coalition of drug user advocacy groups is taking the federal government to court, claiming the decision to recriminalize public drug possession in British Columbia puts users at increased risk of death.

The group of 13 non-profits, including the Matsqui-Abbotsford Impact Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, says in an application filed in Federal Court that the federal government recriminalized public drug possession in B.C. “with minimal justification or evidence.”

The application says it was part of B.C.’s “action plan” on the toxic drug crisis to decriminalize drug possession by getting an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The application says the provincial government later sought an “exemption amendment” to again prohibit public drug possession, which was granted by the federal minister of mental health and addictions.

The court application says the decision was made in “bad faith, for reasons of political expedience,” and failed to consider Charter-protected rights of drug users.

The non-profits say the minister’s decision was based on vague “public safety concerns,” and the effect was to recriminalize the possession of certain illegal drugs in all places other than a private residence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press