Motion to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs set to return to Winnipeg City Hall

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A Winnipeg city councilor plans to bring back a motion to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs after a similar motion was narrowly defeated at city hall earlier this year.

Com. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge – East Fort Garry) wants Winnipeg to take a four-pillar approach to harm reduction. Councilor’s motion also asks the City to support any community organization that asks the federal government for an exemption from the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

“City Hall should stand in solidarity with community organizations that are there for people living with addictions who are suffering the harms of the drug poisoning crisis,” Rollins said in an interview Thursday.

It’s an approach many cities and provinces are taking and one advocate in Winnipeg hopes to see here.

“Decriminalization allows people to carry their personal use, which is extremely important,” said Arlene Last-Kolb, co-founder of Overdose Awareness Manitoba.

Since her son Jessie died of a fentanyl overdose in 2014, Last-Kolb has worked tirelessly as a harm reduction advocate.

She is in the midst of a cross-Canada campaign calling on the federal government for a safe supply and supports jurisdictions across Canada seeking exemptions from Ottawa to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs.

“I have hope and I have faith and I hope they support all harm reduction measures, decriminalization, safe consumption sites and of course safe supply,” Last-Kolb said. .

The new version of Rollins’ motion asks councilors to support the four-pillar approach endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which includes safe consumption sites, decriminalization, safe supply, and diversion and treatment. Something Con. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River), who co-signed the previous motion, said he missed the first time around.

“This is not a criminal case,” Chambers said. “It’s a health issue. The focus should be on getting the help that addicts need.

Rollins drafted a second motion on the issue after an earlier attempt to get Winnipeg to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs was narrowly defeated in an 8-8 vote at City Hall.

Health Canada has not yet granted exemptions to a number of other jurisdictions that have requested them.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who opposed the previous motion but did not review the new one in detail, wants more input from city staff on the federal program.

“I think that’s an important question,” Bowman said Thursday. “I have indicated for some time that I welcome discussions and debates on this subject. Personally, I would like to see an administrative report.

Rollins acknowledged that municipalities cannot act alone, but said Winnipeg can play a role.

“I think it’s something the city can easily accept. It’s a playbook that already exists and has been created,” Rollins said. “It’s time to get to work.”

Rollins said the motion will be presented next month at a meeting of the Policy Executive Committee.

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