B.C. government appealing court’s decision that blocks new law banning public drug use in some areas

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Greer
The Law Courts building, which is home to B.C. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, is seen in Vancouver, on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.

The B.C. government is looking to appeal the B.C. Supreme Court’s decision that temporarily bans a new law aimed at prohibiting public drug use in some areas.

The province hoped to move forward with what it called its “Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act,” which would allow police to fine or arrest people who were using drugs within six metres of building entrances and within 15 metres of playgrounds, skate parks or wading pools – as well as a complete ban on using drugs in sports fields, beaches or parks.

The Harm Reduction Nurses Association pushed back on the new law, and in December the supreme court granted an injunction preventing the new act from coming into effect until March 31, 2024.

READ MORE: B.C. court blocks new law against public drug use, warning of ‘irreparable harm’

The nurses association says the new law would cause “irreparable harm to people at risk of injury and death amid a public health crisis,” and that people who use drugs have few indoor options, meaning they’d be subject to even further harms from enforcement of this law.

“Today’s decision recognizes that substance use cannot be legislated without scrutiny,” said lawyer Caitlin Shane with the Pivot Legal Society and one of the HRNA’s lawyers, in a release on Dec. 29.

In a statement Wednesday, B.C.’s attorney general said the province was hoping to get the law implemented as soon as possible.

“After reviewing the court’s decision, we have decided to file a notice of appeal seeking to have the court’s order overturned,” said Attorney General Niki Sharma.

“We are determined to keep doing everything we can to fight the toxic drug crisis and treat addiction as a health matter rather than a criminal one, while recognizing that drugs should not be used in a range of public places frequented by children and families,” she said. “It is our view that the act addresses this.”

B.C.’s overdose crisis continues to claim lives at a record-setting pace.

On Wednesday, the BC Coroners Service said there were 2,511 suspected illicit drug deaths in 2023, the highest annual toll ever recorded.

With files from the Canadian Press

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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