A group of Canadian police chiefs is calling on the federal government to decriminalize the possession of all drugs for personal use. The report by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), which represents approximately 1,300 chiefs of police from federal, First Nations, provincial, regional, transportation and military police services across Canada, also recommends that a health-based approach to addiction be established to deal with the current opiate crisis.
We need to adopt new and innovative approaches if we are to counter the current trend of drug overdose affecting communities across Canada,” the report states.
Simply arresting individuals for simple possession of illicit drugs has proven ineffective,” the committee says in its report. “Research in other countries that have chosen to take a health-based approach rather than law enforcement to problem drug use has shown positive results.
The CACP recognizes that drug use and abuse is a public health issue,” said Adam Palmer, CACP President, and Vancouver Police Chief. “Being addicted to a prohibited substance is not a crime and should not be treated as such.
Police chiefs believe that a partnership between social services, police, health care providers, and other government agencies would be more effective in combating drug use and abuse than criminalization. Police could then focus on the manufacture, importation, and distribution of illicit drugs rather than getting bogged down in minor drug possession cases.
We recommend that Canada’s approach…be replaced by a health approach that diverts people away from the criminal justice system,” said Palmer. Often our officers are the first point of contact and the ones who will help individuals access appropriate services and care pathways.
The Trudeau government’s response
Following the release of the CACP report, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Justice Minister David Lametti issued a statement recognizing the importance of a holistic approach to dealing with Canada’s opiate crisis.
We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement officials who are considering alternatives to criminalizing simple possession of illicit drugs in appropriate cases, and recognize the importance of reducing barriers to treatment, as well as partnerships between law enforcement and health and social services,” they wrote in the statement.
Ministers also wrote that they continue to take a public health approach to the opiate crisis.
Our government remains committed to advancing evidence-based responses to help reverse the trend of opioid overdose deaths and other substance-related harms in Canada,” they said.