As organizations and individuals committed to the liberation of people who use drugs, and progressive, rights-based drug policy reforms including decriminalization, we, the undersigned, call on the City of Vancouver to address three major concerns regarding its current application to the federal Health Minister to decriminalize simple drug possession locally. We also call on Health Canada and the federal Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, to refrain from imposing unnecessary and unjustified restrictions on any exemption issued to enable decriminalization in Vancouver or other municipalities or provinces that may follow suit, and we call on the Vancouver Police Department to stand down, vacate the process of decriminalization, and sign off on community-established thresholds.
We support the City of Vancouver’s initiative as the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally pursue decriminalization of simple drug possession. We are also keenly aware that the process leading to, and the substantive outcome of, this policy change are likely to become a precedent for jurisdictions considering similar initiatives, such as British Columbia. It is essential, therefore, that the “Vancouver Model” of decriminalization proceeds correctly. This means taking the utmost care to consider the lived and living realities of people who use drugs and ensuring the approach adopted does not lead to more harm than good.