B.C. restricts illicit drug use at playgrounds, pools and skate parks

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The B.C. government will ban possession of illegal drugs at playgrounds, spray pools, wading pools and skate parks following approval from the federal government.

The decision, announced Thursday and effective Monday, comes after several municipalities have sought to curb drug use in public spaces.

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Port Coquitlam passed a bylaw Tuesday night to restrict the use of drugs in parks and playgrounds. Kamloops, Sicamous, Prince George, Penticton, Kelowna, and Campbell River have also recently considered or passed regulations prohibiting drug use in public spaces.

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The proposed bylaws follow B.C.’s implementation in January of a three-year provincial pilot project decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs in an effort to reduce overdose deaths from the province’s toxic drug supply.

Possession of illicit drugs within 15 metres of any play structure in a playground, a spray or wading pool, or a skate park will be prohibited starting Monday, the B.C. government said, in a news release Thursday.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside says B.C. made a request to Health Canada for an amendment to the decriminalization policy to add these spaces to existing exclusions on possession, including on the premises of Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools and licensed child care facilities. The request was approved.

With this amendment, police officers may enforce the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act when individuals are found to be in possession of illegal drugs in these child-focused spaces, she said.

Intoxication remains illegal in all public places.

Whiteside also said the government is planning to introduce provincial legislation to further regulate public drug use this fall, and will release a “data snapshot” on mental health and substance use in B.C.

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This report will show how the ministry is expanding mental-health and addictions care to help people connect services, including early intervention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery, and aftercare supports, the minister added.

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—with files from Sarah Grochowski

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