Bill C-5: Promoting Health Responses to Simple Drug Possession

Backgrounder

Social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical inequities contribute to the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and members of marginalized populations, including those living with substance use and mental health challenges, in the criminal justice system.

On December 7, 2021, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to ensure that responses to criminal offences are fair and effective, while ensuring that public safety is maintained. These reforms were initially introduced in the second session of the  43rd Parliament.

The amendments to the CDSA support the Government’s commitment to address the opioid crisis. They would provide space to treat simple drug possession as a health issue, rather than as a criminal one, by requiring police and prosecutors to consider diverting people to treatment programs or other supportive services, instead of charging and prosecuting simple drug possession offences.  

More specifically, this bill would:

  • emphasize treatment programs: require police and prosecutors to consider alternative measures—including diverting individuals to treatment programs, giving a warning or taking no further action—instead of laying charges or prosecuting individuals for simple possession of an illegal drug
  • provide a declaration of principles to guide police and prosecutors to exercise their discretion fairly and effectively

If enacted, these measures would help ensure that those living with mental health or substance use challenges are given the help they need instead of being stigmatized and punished by the criminal justice system.

Find out more about the Government’s response to Canada’s opioid crisis.

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