A group of mothers stands in a field. Each mother stands behind a white cross to commemorate a child lost to drugs.

Photo Credit: Moms Stop the Harm

VanIsle MP’s Drug Bill Rejected, People Will Die As A Result

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns will keep pushing for change

Folks who use drugs need care, not jail

In BC, most of us have lost someone we know to drug use. Ask anyone what they wish they could change. They will tell you they wish their loved one had gotten help.

Hundreds of moms from Moms Stop the Harm gathered outside Parliament in the last few days. They’re an advocacy group of moms who have lost children to toxic drugs. They say their children needed help, but instead, they lost their lives.

They came to Ottawa to sit in the gallery and watch while politicians debated Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns’ bill on healthcare for drug users.

The bill he introduced in Parliament, Bill C-216, was called the Health-based Approach to the Substance Use Act.

The bill said that drug users are people who deserve help, not prosecution. It said that drug use is a health issue and that people need care, not jail.

Parliament voted to pass BC’s move to decriminalize drugs as a pilot program in 2023. This is a small win.

But they vetoed Johns’ bill, which could have led to a Canada-wide change.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Johns said.

Here’s what the bill was trying to do:

Create a regulated, safe supply of drugs

The bill would have prevented overdoses and deaths from additives such as Fentanyl.

In BC, Fentanyl was responsible for 85.1 percent of toxic drug deaths from 2019 to 2021. It kills thousands of British Columbians every year.

Wipe criminal records for small amounts of drugs

It’s hard to find a job when you have a criminal record. And it’s hard to get and stay clean without a job.

Wiping criminal records for small amounts of drugs would help folks get jobs and improve their quality of life.

Expand on-demand treatment services and other healthcare programs

On-demand treatment services would get folks the help they need fast. That means people who have taken toxic drugs and need care, or folks who have decided to get clean.

These types of programs could also help keep folks from using drugs in the first place.

Johns is disappointed that the bill got voted down. But he’s not about to give up.

“This fight is not over,” he said. “It can never end until Canada’s failure to protect the human rights of tens of thousands of its citizens is corrected.”