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Canada’s government is being sued as War On Drugs continues

People are calling for the decriminalisation of drug use in Canada as it causes people to buy from poisoned drug supplies.

Drug users and advocates of drug policy reform are suing the Canadian government because they believe that the consistent prohibition of drugs is unconstitutional.

On Tuesday the non-profit organisation, Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs (CAPUD), filed a statement claim in British Columbia Supreme Court against the Attorney General of Canada.

Poisoned drugs such as fentanyl has infiltrated Canada's drug supply
Image: Macleans

They argued that the government is responsible for overdose deaths because the war on drugs forces users to source their drugs from toxic supply companies.

The aim of the statement is to target and strike down sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act – the federal framework for prosecuting drug offences – which they allege results in thousands of overdose deaths across Canada each year.

Since 2016 22,000 people have died from a drug overdose.

According to the statement of claim, the majority of these overdose deaths have been caused by fentanyl in particular, which has infiltrated Canada’s drug supply.

“Canada’s longstanding policy of criminalising illicit drugs, the purpose of which is to prevent harm, is now having the opposite effect. Criminalising the use of illicit drugs, and, correspondingly, making the illicit market the only possible source of most drugs, is now killing thousands of Canadians each year,” the document outlines.

It continues to outline that drug prohibition is a violation of the Charter rights of people who use drugs which includes: the rights to life, liberty, security of the person, rights against cruel and unusual punishment and equality rights.

Additionally, the lawsuit outlines that drug dependence and addiction is a medical condition “that attracts limited or no moral blameworthiness” but simultaneously has forced people who use drugs to do so in dangerous environments that could leave them badly injured or dead.

Members of CAPUD fighting the War on Drugs
Image: CAPUD

CAPUD adds that their aimed strike down of parts of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act includes targeting possession offences.

Additionally, the group wants the government to address and strike down trafficking offences, including the trafficking for subsistence. This will support personal drug use and ensure the safe supply of drugs to vulnerable people who are dependent on them.

One of the plaintiffs, Hawkfeather Peterson, states that the intention of the lawsuit is an attempt to incite action,

“Drug users now know that no one is coming to rescue us. We need to step up and force the matter. This is really about our fundamental human rights. We deserve dignity and freedoms but above all else we deserve safety. Drug users have been left to die. And we are hopeful that this action will create real change to protect our already vulnerable population.”

This lawsuit arises in the midst of a federal election.

The NDP (National Democratic Party) has been the only party to commit to “end the criminalisation and stigma of drug addiction.” 

The Liberal party say they will repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in addition to giving police and Crown attorneys discretion to not charge people for drug possession and to instead guide them into drug treatment court and/or addictions services.

The Conservative party have taken a different approach, saying that their plan is to help people ‘lead a drug-free life’ and that law enforcement should focus on drug traffickers.

On Tuesday, B.C. reported that more than 1,000 people have died of a drug overdose in the first half of 2021 alone, placing it back on track to be yet another record year for fatal overdoses in only the western province.