Drug users group files decriminalization lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court

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A group representing drug users has filed a lawsuit against the federal government in the British Columbia Supreme Court, seeking to reduce the possession of illegal drugs, arguing that overdoses can be criminalized during the crisis. infringes on charter rights.

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The statement of claim, filed Tuesday by the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs and four individual plaintiffs, said drug dependence is well recognized as a medical condition, but criminalization means that toxic The illegal market is the sole source of most drugs.

It said the illicit drug supply has become increasingly contaminated with the potent opioid fentanyl and related substances since 2016, creating a drug poisoning and overdose crisis that is killing thousands of Canadians each year.

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The lawsuit argues that criminalization has also created a high level of stigma, leading many people to use the drugs alone and covertly, increasing the risk of overdose.

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The defense statement has not been filed in the court’s online search system.

Health Canada spokesman Mark Johnson said Justice Canada was reviewing the claim.

“Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the ongoing overdose crisis, with multiple jurisdictions reporting high rates of harm, including deaths, in 2020 and 2021,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Canadian press .

The trial challenges the offenses of drug possession in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which states that they violate the right to life, liberty and safety of the individual, the right to equality and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment. .

The civil claim, among other things, asks the court to eliminate all drug possession offenses as well as certain drug trafficking offenses related to subsistence.

Drug overdoses killed more than 21,000 people in Canada between 2016 and 2020, the lawsuit says. It claims that many deaths could have been prevented with a combination of de-criminalisation, a secure drug supply, and harm reduction services.

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The City of Vancouver has requested an exception to the federal law to decriminalize possession of certain quantities of drugs for personal use, but Health Canada has yet to grant the request. The city of Toronto and the BC government have also supported de-criminalisation, while the lawsuit calls for an end to the nationwide prohibition.

This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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