Winnipeg Councillors will vote Thursday Feb. 24 on whether they will ask the Federal Government for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Drug overdoses took the lives of 372 Manitobans in 2020.
Arlene Last-Kolb, co-founder of Overdose Awareness Manitoba lost her son Jessie in 2014.
“While city councillors argue whether this is right, two people die every day,” said Last-Kolb.
She says resources like safe consumption sites and decriminalizing drugs could have saved her son’s life.
The motion was introduced by Coun. Sherri Rollins who previously said criminalization makes it difficult for drug users to access harm and reduction services.
Markus Chambers, Coun. of St. Norbert – Seine River agrees.
“The current process that we’re utilizing is not working to a desired outcome,” said Chambers. “We should be focusing our efforts on the recovery efforts as opposed to criminalizing those individuals and further marginalizing them.
Other cities are ahead of Manitoba on this front. Vancouver brought forward a similar motion in 2020 and awaits approval from Health Canada.
In their proposal, people with less than 4.5 grams of drugs like heroin and fentanyl would get access to addiction services, instead of dealing with police.
Chambers says we need to make the decision based on evidence.
“It does take some out-of-the-box thinking and in looking at other countries the Netherlands, Portugal, and Czech Republic that have already gone down this road and the success that they’ve seen.”
Last-Kolb says we cannot wait another day to make these changes.
“When we talk about decriminalization, safe supply, and safe consumption sites – these are things that will keep people alive.”
Black Balloon Day, a day for overdose awareness, is on March 6.