Health Canada Agrees to Discuss Decriminalization of Simple Drug Possession, Vancouver Mayor Says

January 28, 2021 Updated: January 28, 2021

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says Health Canada has agreed to start formal discussions on the city’s plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.

The confirmation from federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu came in response to the city council voting in November to ask Ottawa to decriminalize simple possession of all illicit drugs for personal use.

In her letter to Stewart and Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, Hajdu said Health Canada will work with officials from the City of Vancouver and the local health authority to better understand the proposed framework.

“I am committed to our continued work to identify options that respond to the local needs of the City of Vancouver,” Hajdu said.

If the federal government grants an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow decriminalization of simple drug possession in Vancouver, the city would be the first jurisdiction in Canada with such an exemption.

Stewart said Vancouver will work with Health Canada, Vancouver Coastal Health, the police department, community groups, advocates, and drug users to “determine how decriminalization will be implemented.”

With a file from The Canadian Press