Federal Tory Leader Poilievre targets illicit drugs in B.C. hospitals

VANCOUVER — Federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre says the Conservatives will put forward legislation that would forbid Ottawa from “ever” granting provinces exemptions to allow illicit drug use in hospitals.

Poilievre made the announcement in Vancouver on Tuesday, saying the Conservatives will introduce a private member’s bill in Parliament to end the federal health minister’s power to grant exemptions that would allow the use of illicit drugs in a hospital setting.

Private member’s bills from individual MPs rarely make it all the way through the legislative process, but Poilievre says the situation in British Columbia hospitals has grown dire since the province’s drug decriminalization project was enacted in 2023.


B.C. has recently requested to again prohibit the use of illicit drugs in most public spaces, including hospitals, which was approved by the federal government a week ago.

In response to Poilievre’s characterization of B.C.’s drug decriminalization as “reckless and radical,” Premier David Eby says the province “has an obligation” to people struggling with addiction to give them every chance to get into treatment.

Eby says arresting people instead of providing support is not the right approach.

“It will not save lives,” he says. “It will not make our communities safer.”

Poilievre says he understands the proposed bill could be seen as a federal curb of provincial rights in the hospital setting, and some provinces may push back if a law is passed.


“They might,” he says. “The NDP and (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau are equally radical on these questions. 

“But I’d leave it up to British Columbians. Do British Columbians believe that someone should be allowed to smoke crack, meth and bring machetes into hospitals, right next to patients who are trying to recover from cancer or a heart attack?”

The Conservative bill would also make having weapons in a hospital an aggravating factor in sentencing on a conviction. It comes after the BC Nurses’ Union said earlier this month that a survey of its members found 39 per cent reported being exposed to weapons on the job, while 61 per cent said they had been exposed to illicit substances.

“It’s time employers realize it is their legal and moral obligation to support their staff and make health-care settings safe for both nurses and patients,” union president Adriane Gear said in a statement at the time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2024.


The Canadian Press

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