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Canadian police chiefs call for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canada’s police chiefs call for decriminalization of drug possession for personal use
Canada's police chiefs call for decriminalization of drug possession for personal use

The head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) is calling for the decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs.

“Arresting individuals for simple possession of illicit drugs has proven to be ineffective,” Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, who heads the CACP, said Thursday. “It does not save lives.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s emotional response to B.C.’s record-breaking drug overdose numbers in May
Dr. Bonnie Henry’s emotional response to B.C.’s record-breaking drug overdose numbers in May

Palmer says the chiefs recommend the “current enforcement-based approach for possession be replaced with a health-care approach that diverts people from the criminal justice system.”

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The association is calling for the creation of a national task force to look into drug policy reform.

Read more: B.C.’s top doctor urges province to decriminalize possession of hard drugs to address overdose crisis

Enforcement and judicial efforts must continue to target trafficking and the illegal production and importation of drugs to choke off the supply of harmful substances coming communities, the chiefs say.

But the traditional role of frontline policing has fundamentally shifted to harm reduction when interacting with people experiencing addiction or mental-health problems, Palmer said in a statement.

B.C. premier expresses support for CAPC’s decriminalization of illegal drugs
B.C. premier expresses support for CAPC’s decriminalization of illegal drugs

“Frequently, our officers are the point of first contact and the ones who will assist individuals in accessing appropriate services and pathways of care.”

A committee report calls for “new and innovative approaches if we are going to disrupt the current trend of drug overdoses impacting communities across Canada.”

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CACP calls for the national decriminalization of simple drug possession
CACP calls for the national decriminalization of simple drug possession

B.C.’s provincial health officer has advocated for the decriminalization of people who use drugs.

In a report released in April, Dr. Bonnie Henry says the change is an important step in dealing with the province’s ongoing overdose crisis.

— With files from The Canadian Press