Waterloo regional council endorses decriminalization of illicit drugs

Waterloo regional council passed a motion to advocate that the upper levels of government decriminalize simple possession of illicit drugs in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.

“I know there are people in the community who will struggle with this issue, just like they struggled with us opening up a CTS (consumption and treatment services) site, but the reality is that many of the concerns have not come to fruition. The reality is that many lives have been saved,” Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said during Wednesday night’s council meeting.

“And we have had an opportunity to interact with some people and get them onto a path for some wellness.”

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Waterloo regional council to vote on whether to endorse decriminalization of illicit drugs

In 2020 and 2021, there were 205 opioid-related deaths in Waterloo Region, with another 24 victims over the first four months of 2022, according to the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy’s (WRIDS) website.

The WRIDS steering committee had prepared a report with several options that council considered on Wednesday night, with the preferred option being to decriminalize simple possession with expanded access to health interventions.

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Letters will now be sent from the region to upper levels of government which are asking for increased investment in prevention, treatment and harm reduction programs, including safer supply programs overseen by health professionals.

The region says the safer supply programs will prevent overdoses and overdose deaths as there will be a regulated supply of safer forms of the currently illicit drugs.

In February, NDP MP Gord Johns tabled a private member’s bill to decriminalize drug possession nationwide, which has been debated.

It is expected to be voted upon on June 1.

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