Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, accompanied by Tseshaht First Nation Elected Councillor Nasimius Ed Ross, speaks to the crowd during an opioid dialogue event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Port Alberni Shelter Society on April 21, 2022. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, accompanied by Tseshaht First Nation Elected Councillor Nasimius Ed Ross, speaks to the crowd during an opioid dialogue event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Port Alberni Shelter Society on April 21, 2022. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

City of Port Alberni backs MP’s drug decriminalization bill

MP Gord Johns is currently on national ‘Stop the Harm’ tour

Port Alberni city council has endorsed Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns’ proposal for a health-based approach to substance use.

Council agreed unanimously during a meeting on Monday, April 25 to support Johns’ Private Member’s Bill C-216. If passed, the bill would decriminalize personal possession of illegal drugs, expunge criminal convictions for personal possession of drugs and expand access to safe supplies, treatment, harm reduction and recovery sites.

Port Alberni joins a list of local governments that have endorsed the bill, including the Town of Qualicum Beach, Village of Cumberland, City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Regional District and City of Duncan.

“This is something that Gord Johns has been advocating for in his new role as critic for Mental Health and Addictions,” explained Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. “I think that Gord has done a fantastic job reaching out to communities and bringing awareness. It’s something that has pretty broad support across a lot of stakeholders.”

Back in November 2021, the province of British Columbia applied to the federal government to decriminalize simple possession of street drugs in the province. In a statement, the province said that the application is supported by health and social service providers, Indigenous partners, those with lived experiences and research and advocacy groups.

READ MORE: B.C. applies to decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs amid opioid crisis

Decriminalization has also been endorsed by law enforcement, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Johns first introduced his bill in December 2021. Johns is currently on a national “Stop the Harm” tour, meeting with organizations in communities across Canada that support people who use or are addicted to drugs. He started the tour to raise support for his private members bill.

“Service providers are on the front lines doing the important work to support their community,” Johns said in advance of a stop in Victoria in April. “They are doing everything they can to keep people safe in the middle of a crisis which has cost thousands of lives.”

The national toxic drug supply and drug poisoning crisis has led to more than 27,000 deaths across the country in the past six years, according to the NDP. In 2021, 2,224 people in B.C. died from suspected toxic drug poisoning.

Johns’ bill is currently at second reading in the House of Commons.

Port Alberni