New legislation will create clear rules regarding public drug use and enable police to redirect people to safer spaces where they can be connected to health-care services and treatment.
“The toxic drug crisis has taken too many lives, too soon. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to save lives and help people struggling with addiction get treatment,” said Premier David Eby. “British Columbians overwhelmingly agree addiction is a health matter. At the same time, none of us want open drug use in community gathering places – especially near where kids play. That’s why we’re taking this critical step similar to how we regulate smoking or alcohol use in public, to help people feel safer in their communities. This will also help those deep in addiction to connect to safer and more appropriate spaces with the services they need.”
The restricting public consumption of illegal substances act will encourage people who use drugs to use safely at local overdose prevention sites to keep community spaces free of illegal drug use.
The legislation, if passed, will ban drug use in public and recreation-focused spaces including:
- a six-metre radius from building entrances, including businesses and residential buildings;
- within six metres of a bus stop;
- within 15 metres of playgrounds, spray and wading pools, and skate parks; and
- at parks, beaches and sports fields.
These restrictions would align more closely with rules around tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use and provide a consistent approach throughout the province.
The proposed legislation relates to the public use of drugs and comes shortly after the Province secured amendments to B.C.’s Section 56 exemption from Health Canada. Personal possession of small amounts of illegal drugs remains permitted in certain areas as part of B.C.’s decriminalization pilot program to reduce the stigma and isolation that prevents people from reaching out for help and leads to people using alone.
The legislation is intended to help people feel safer in community spaces and to help people who use drugs connect to spaces where they can use safely and connect to services they need. If passed, the legislation will allow police officers to ask a person using drugs in any of these places to cease the activity and leave the area for another appropriate area, such as an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site. If a person refuses this direction, the police officer may choose to proceed with enforcement measures, if appropriate.
The legislation will also provide clarity to local governments about the process to consult with their medical health officer and the regional health authority before considering any additional bylaws regarding public consumption of illegal drugs.
“The toxic-drug supply is impacting every community across B.C. and our government is doing everything we can to expand access to addiction treatment for people,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We want people to be able to come forward for help and not fear arrest for struggling with addiction, and we also recognize that places where children and families gather are not places where people should be using drugs. The legislation introduced today reflects that.”
The legislation stems from feedback from local governments, police and members of the public expressing concerns about public consumption of illegal drugs. It will address the needs of communities and public safety, while still recognizing the critical need for supports for people who use drugs in the face of a toxic drug crisis.
Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria –
“The provincial government has heard the concerns from people and municipalities on the use of illegal drugs in public spaces. This new law will help keep communities safer for everyone while more and more supportive services are offered across B.C.”
Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson, co-chair of the CACP drug advisory committee; vice-president, BC Association of Chiefs of Police –
“The BC Association of Chiefs of Police appreciates the tools this legislation provides our members, which will ensure everyone in our communities feel safe, while we continue to support those who are living with addiction. We support today’s announcement on new provincial legislation, while also recognizing that we must apply our discretion and utilize the act only when behaviour is problematic or repeated. Our goal is to not criminalize drug users, but to continue to direct people to alternate pathways of care while at the same time supporting our community’s sense of safety.”
To learn more about B.C.’s work to address the toxic-drug crisis, visit: https://mentalhealthandaddictionscare.gov.bc.ca/
To learn more about mental-health and substance-use supports in B.C., visit: https://wellbeing.gov.bc.ca/
For more information about B.C. legislation, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/legislation