A Victoria city councillor is proposing a motion to expand the distance and areas where drug possession is not allowed.
The Province of British Columbia recently added an amendment to its pilot program that decriminalized drug possession for personal use.
On Sept. 18, it became illegal to possess drugs within 15 meters of any play structure in a playground, a spray or wading pool, or a skate park. This was also extended to include structures around K-12 schools and licensed childcare facilities.
“We requested this amendment from Health Canada to ensure that families feel safe in their community while continuing to use every tool available to fight the toxic-drug crisis and save lives,” said Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a Sept. 14 news release.
Councillor Stephen Hammond is now putting forward a motion that would expand on the current ban.
“So we don’t let kids think this is normalized because no one would want a life of drug addiction,” said Hammond.
His proposed motion would extend the distance individuals are not allowed to possess drugs by 15 metres to a total of 30 metres. The list of spaces where possession would be illegal would also be expanded to sports fields, tennis courts, picnic tables, bus shelters, and public facilities such as libraries and community centres.
Hammond says the goal isn’t to arrest those who break the law but to prevent youths from using drugs.
“It’s about helping out in the process of preventing youth and young people thinking that this can be normalized and this is something that they might want to try,” he said.
B.C.’s amendment also allowed police forces to enforce the Controlled Drug and Substances Act against violators, which does include arrests, but that only applies to the first 15 metres.
If Hammond’s motion passes, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says it’s up to the municipality to enforce it.
“Any bylaw that extends beyond the first 15 metres would not be under the purview of the CDSA but would be subject to the existing enforcement approaches regarding bylaws in the municipality, such as warnings or tickets,” said the ministry in an emailed statement to CHEK News.
The ministry added that public intoxication in public spaces is still illegal.
“I don’t think the change will make a lot of a difference to people,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications at Our Place Society.
Advocates say the change is welcomed but overall won’t change much among users.
“I mean, a crosswalk sign doesn’t mean anything to them. So this won’t really do anything, but if we had the police or whatever to say to someone, ‘You know you can’t use drugs here, let me take you to a supervised consumption site, where you can do it under supervision.’ That would be a bonus,” said McKenzie.
The ministry says legislation coming in the fall that would help battle illegal drug use.
“The province will be introducing new legislation this fall to provide a comprehensive approach to illegal drug use in community spaces while continuing to support people who use drugs in connecting to the lifesaving supports they need.”
Hammond’s motion will be presented to Council on Sept. 28.