Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city after it asked that possession of small amounts of illicit drugs be decriminalized.

Stewart has received a letter from Patty Hajdu in response to city council voting unanimously in November to request an exemption to federal drug laws during the overdose crisis.

In the letter, Hajdu says 184 people in Vancouver died from overdoses between last July and November alone, and the crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Hajdu says Health Canada will work with the city and the local health authority to “better understand” the proposal and identify options for the city.

Stewart says the high number of overdose deaths during a pandemic has resulted in an “absolute catastrophe,” adding that he recently lost a family member to an overdose.

He says the city and the health authority are also awaiting a questionnaire from the federal government seeking more details about its request, which will be returned with input from drug users.

READ MORE: B.C. Premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

B.C. overdosesoverdose crisisVancouver