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Delta police chief wants 'second phase' in drug decriminalization

The Health Canada approved three-year pilot ends in January 2026
In January, B.C. decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of some hard drugs for adults. frolicsomepl/Pixabay

Steps have been taken but more is needed to help those with drug addictions, says Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord.

At a recent Delta Police Board meeting, Dubord provided an update on the decriminalization in B.C. of possessing small amounts of illicit drugs.

The federal government last year announced that the province would be granted a three-year exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to remove criminal penalties for those who possess a small amount for personal use.

The exemption is in effect from Jan. 31, 2023, to Jan. 31, 2026.

The substances remain illegal, but adults who have 2.5 grams or less of the certain hard drugs for personal use will no longer be arrested, charged or have their drugs seized. People will be offered information on resources, but they do not have to accept it.

Delta officers are undergoing several phases of training including interacting with those carrying small amounts of drugs. The training will continue throughout the three-year exemption period.

Dubord told the board at their June 22nd meeting that resources are needed to be able to get people into the help they want.

“I truly believe that, something as a police leader and something we feel as an organization, that we need to advocate for the second phase of decriminalization. I think what is still missing is the recovery and treatment program in decriminalization. We have people now that have safe supply, and hopefully that will keep them alive, but we still have no way to be able to get people into recovery and treatment. And I think that’s something police leaders, and I’ve talked to my colleagues in other police departments as well, need to be able to start talking about, and that’s the next stage of the decriminalization process and how the government supports a rapid treatment program, a recovery program,” said Dubord.

“If any of our children were addicted and then had access to safe supply to be able to keep them alive, we want them to get better. We just don’t want them to have safe supply, it’s about the next phase how we move that forward…I will becoming more vocal and the Delta Police Department will becoming more vocal about this particular program,” he added.

Dubord’s concerns were echoed by Stacey Bampton of the police department’s new Community Navigator Program, the first program of its kind in B.C.

Aimed at helping people avoid the criminal justice system, the program, among other things, assists vulnerable people by guiding them to resources including housing, addiction, mental health supports or other provincial programs.

Bampton at the police board meeting said some of the gaps identified when it comes to supports in Delta include housing, safe shelter beds as well as access to mental health and substance use supports, which often have very lengthy intake processes and wait lists.

In a recent interview, meanwhile, City of Delta Manager Sean McGill told the Optimist that the city currently has no plan to implement an additional new bylaw, or tweak current bylaws, to specifically ban open use of small amounts of illegal drugs in public, choosing instead to monitor the situation and rely on existing regulations.

He said staff have had preliminary discussions with council about the new, temporary Health Canada exemption and are monitoring the impact of the changes, but at this time don’t feel the city needs to make any amendments to existing bylaws.

McGill said Delta’s Smoking Regulation Bylaw prohibits “smoking” of any consumable substance or material in parks and on municipal property. Accordingly, smoking cannabis or any other drug is already prohibited in a number of locations in Delta, regardless of the new Health Canada exemption.