March 3rd, 2024

B.C. court blocks new law against public drug use, warning of ‘irreparable harm’

By The Canadian Press on December 29, 2023.

The British Columbia Supreme Court has blocked new provincial laws against public consumption of illegal substances. The Law Courts building, which is home to B.C. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, is seen in Vancouver, on Thursday, November 23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – The British Columbia Supreme Court has blocked new provincial laws against public consumption of illegal substances.

The ruling in favour of the Harm Reduction Nurses Association imposes a temporary injunction until March 31, with the judge saying “irreparable harm will be caused” if the laws come into force.

The Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act was passed by the legislature in November, allowing fines and imprisonment for people who refuse to comply with police orders not to consume drugs in certain public places.

The nurses association argued the act, which has yet to come into effect, would violate the Canadian charter in various ways if enforced.

But Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson says in his ruling that it was unnecessary to turn to those arguments, since the “balance of convenience” and the risk of irreparable harm weighed in the plaintiff’s favour.

Lawyer Caitlin Shane for the nurses association says the injunction, pending a constitutional challenge, shows “substance use cannot be legislated without scrutiny.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2023.

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