Harm Reduction, Not Criminalization

End the opioid crisis

258 people died in Vancouver from the opioid crisis between Jan and June 30, 2017. 88% more people died from overdose deaths in BC in 2017 than in a comparable period in 2016. We must stop the fentanyl crisis immediately, because too many people are dying.

There are many systemic factors that create the conditions for addictions to illegal drugs:  racism, colonization, gender violence, foster care, poverty, homelessness. All levels of government need to address these issues immediately. The City needs to work with user groups to campaign at all levels of government for decriminalization, clean, safe drugs and treatment on demand.

They need to lobby fiercely for the following measures:

  • Drug laws should be altered to follow the Portugal model where a combination of harm reduction, public investment in treatment and prevention and decriminalization of minor offenses has made a significant impact.
  • Adopt and implement culturally appropriate programs for drug treatment on demand.
  • People who use drugs should have access to clean and free drugs so they don’t have to depend on the black market for extra money (by selling drugs, bodies, medications, belongings, binning etc).

But there are also things that the city can do by itself:

  • Scrapping bylaws that criminalize people who use drugs: vending and jay walking bylaws
  • Stop harassing homeless people who have to sleep on the street; stop making them pack up their things every day even when its raining;
  • Stop harassing tent cities and provide them with garbage pick up, porta potties, clean water until housing is available for all
  • Fund community groups who support harm reduction
  • Put oxygen tanks in community centres (to help revive people who overdose)
  • Provide clinic space for assisted heroin treatment
  • Work with other levels of government to build an Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Centre in the DTES

Police budget

The Vancouver police budget has increased by almost $100,000,000 since the Vision Vancouver was elected in 2008. Right now the police budget accounts for nearly a quarter of the entire City budget. That needs to change. An initial 5% reduction in the police budget would free up $13.5 M and be used to reduce homelessness. Bringing the police budget back down to 2008 levels will free up enough money to build about 500 units of housing a year. Housing the homeless instead of criminalizing homelessness, will reduce the need for and the costs of policing and other emergency services. The budget that is freed up this way can then go toward funding and empowering communities to establish their own health, wellness and safety services and centres, and therefore reduce the need for policing.

In addition to cutting the police budget, the City needs to:

  • Disarm and de-militarize the police and equip police force with Narcan kits instead
  • Stop the police targeting of drug users, scrap bylaws that criminalize poor people who are poor and abolish the transit police
  • Act on the demands of community groups who want cops out of schools
  • Create civilian oversight and control of the police

 

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