BC’s Handling of Drug Crisis Has Been an ‘Abject Failure,’ Says Poilievre

by EditorT

Pierre Poilievre speaks after being elected as the new leader of Conservative Party in Ottawa, September 10, 2022. (REUTERS/Patrick Doyle)

By Peter Wilson

British Columbia’s ongoing attempts to handle its drug crisis have been an “abject failure,” says federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who adds that the province’s decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use have made the problem worse.

“Decriminalization has been in place in B.C. now since about 2017 in reality,” Poilievre told reporters in Ottawa on Feb. 1. “The results are in. The debate is over. It has been a disaster, an absolute abject failure.”

“You not only need to take a walk down the streets of East Vancouver where addicts lay face-first on the pavement, where people are living permanently in tents and encampments, but you just need to look at the data.”

Poilievre said there has been a 300 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in B.C. since the Liberal government first took power back in 2015.

“The Trudeau-NDP approach is on open display in Vancouver,” he said. “It is a complete disaster. It is hell on earth.”

“We’re going to reverse that policy. And we’re going to replace it with recovery and treatment. That’s what works.”

The B.C. government officially decriminalized possession of hard drugs on Jan. 31, under a temporary authorization by Health Canada. This means that adults, over 18, found in possession of less than 2.5 grams of any combination of cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, heroin, fentanyl, and/or morphine for personal use will not be arrested or charged, and will not have their drugs seized.

Health Canada approved the three-year experimental program back in May 2022, which granted B.C. the first provincial exemption from the federal government’s Controlled Drug and Substances Act. The exemption will remain in place until Jan. 31, 2026, unless reversed earlier.


Federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett spoke positively about B.C.’s decriminalization plan during a news conference in Vancouver on Jan. 30, saying that it will reduce “the stigma, the fear, and shame that keep people who use drugs silent about their use, or using alone.”

“Supervised consumption sites, which prioritize the dignity and safety of people who use drugs, have saved lives and guided many Canadians towards treatment,” she said.

Bennett added that the decriminalization policy “is not legalization,” noting that “all activities with illegal drugs, including production, trafficking, import, and export remain illegal, even if conducted with the drugs listed in the exemption in amounts under the 2.5 grams threshold.”

Last spring, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Justice Minister David Lametti said the Liberal government has no plans for any national drug decriminalization policies. Trudeau said the federal government will not seek to decriminalize such illicit drug possessions in other jurisdictions without putting “the system and supports in place.”

Marnie Cathcart contributed to this report. 


Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.

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