Bill 22 won’t be back this spring

By Shannon Waters January 20, 2021

The NDP government says it will not be reintroducing legislation this spring to authorize involuntarily “stabilization care” for youth immediately after an overdose.

The Mental Health and Addictions Ministry confirmed to BC Today that the controversial legislation “won’t be coming forward in the spring session.”

Former mental health and addictions minister Judy Darcy introduced Bill 22, Mental Health Amendment Act, in June 2020. It immediately prompted concern from B.C.’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe. Lapointe was soon echoed by Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s representative for children and youth; the BC Civil Liberties Association; the Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Health Justice; and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users.

In July, Darcy announced the bill would be pulled, pending further consultations on regulatory safeguards “to protect young people’s rights.”

The NDP government has not given up on the controversial legislation entirely, but the bill will not be retabled until the ministry has “taken the time to listen to people about these complex issues.”

Premier John Horgan brought the bill up several times on last fall’s campaign trail, contending it would “address the challenges that families face when it comes to the scourge of opioids” by providing time for young people who have experienced overdose to “find clarity” and choose to enter treatment.

In December, Horgan told the Times Colonist he hopes to see the bill brought back and believes “it was the right way to go.”

Greens call for Bill 22 to be abandoned
Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau urged the government to let the dead bill die.

Furstenau said the Green caucus flagged over 20 sections of the former Bill 22 during several meetings with ex-minister Darcy.

She said the bill was “inappropriately drafted,” possibly violated the charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and contained a clause “that would have allowed children and youth to be detained through chemical, electronic, mechanical, and physical means without limitation.”

“The B.C. Green Caucus made it clear we would not vote for a bill that would harm children or lead to increased deaths,” Furstenau said in a statement yesterday, adding that she hopes Horgan “will now understand why he should not force this legislation through as written.”