As British Columbia’s temporary decriminalization of hard drugs kicks in this week, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says relaxation of illicit drug access and lax law enforcement in the province have led to surging overdose deaths and rising crime.
Effective Jan. 31, B.C. residents aged 18 and over won’t be arrested or charged if found in possession of less than 2.5 grams of any combination of cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, heroin, fentanyl, and/or morphine, for personal use, nor will their drugs be seized. A three-year experiment period for this policy will be in place until Jan. 31, 2026.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last June that the federal government’s decision to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs in B.C. was to offer other supports amid the overdose crisis.
Poilievre says the approach used by both the BC NDP and the federal government “has been a complete disaster.”
“Over the last eight years, Justin Trudeau has been in power, and for a similar time, the NDP has run British Columbia. And they’ve allowed heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and other drugs to flood our streets,” Poilievre told NTD Television, The Epoch Times’ sister media.
“The results are in: there’s more than a 300 percent increase in overdose deaths under Justin Trudeau, a 92 percent increase nationwide in gang killings, and a 32 percent increase in violent crime. … The Trudeau/NDP approach has been a complete disaster.”
According to B.C. crime statistics in 2021, there were 80,942 police-reported criminal offences, among which 12,279 were drug offences. Of those, just one-fifth, or 2,264 cases, were prosecuted, and this was also a 33 percent decline in the prosecution rate compared to the previous year.
Meanwhile, the B.C. government reported at least 2,272 deaths related to illicit drug overdose in 2022, the second-highest in a calendar year and just 34 fewer than the 2,306 deaths reported in 2021.
“It has created hell on earth in parts of our major cities, particularly east central Vancouver,” Poilievre said.
“And the results of that speak for themselves—the human stories of 30,000 people who’ve lost their lives. Those stories echo over the eight years that Trudeau has been in office. We need to reverse these policies, get drugs off our street, and get addicts into treatment.”
B.C. said on Jan. 30 that the move to decriminalize will help “end the shame and stigma that prevents people with substance-use challenges from reaching out for life-saving help,” while noting the temporary federal exemption doesn’t mean illicit drugs are legalized.
Poilievre said “we all will have more of the same” when asked what will happen if the decriminalization approach to hard drugs is expanded.
However, Justice Minister David Lametti said last June following B.C.’s decriminalization announcement that there won’t be a “larger discussion” about decriminalization nationwide.
Instead of providing prescribed drugs, which the B.C. government will be investing $22.6 million over the next three years, Poilievre said the government should be investing in providing treatment to addicts.
“The right approach is to put our resources into treatment and recovery. That includes inpatient residential treatment centres, where thousands of people who are addicted to drugs can go. They can get medical detox and counselling, they can be separated from their addiction and the crowd and the gangs that got them into trouble in the first place,” he said.
“They can build a plan for a job and family life after they get out. And then they can get some support when they’re back on the streets so they can pay their taxes, earn an income, take care of their families, and have happy lives. That’s the best way to do it.”
In addition, Poilievre said a strong border control policy and criminal penalties for drug dealers should be put in place.
“We also need to stop the importation of illegal drugs by reinforcing our borders, and we have to bring in tougher criminal penalties for those dealers and gang kingpins or making massive profits off of selling fentanyl and other lethal and poisonous drugs,” he said.
NTD Television contributed to this report.