The Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police understands that there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that decriminalization is an effective way to mitigate the harms of substance use and the policies and practices used to deal with it, especially those harms associated with criminal justice prosecution for simple possession. Decriminalization is not a single approach, but a spectrum of principles, policies, and practices that can be implemented in various ways and includes the decriminalization for simple possession of illicit drugs as well as diversion programs and treatment.
The Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police endorse and support the following recommendations:
- that Canada proceed with the decriminalization for simple possession of illicit drugs. This means that drug possession remains illegal, but the nature of the penalty for possessing a small or predetermined amount of drugs for personal consumption is either reduced/changed from a criminal conviction to a fine or other type of sanction. Decriminalization does not mean legalization. This approach recognizes that addiction is not a crime, it is a public health issue.
- that enforcement resources and strategies continue to be targeted at organized crime groups and individuals who import, produce, or distribute illegal drugs throughout our communities. These activities continue to be criminal offences and police services should remain committed to combatting organized crime and disrupting the supply of harmful substances.
- that the adoption of a health-based diversionary approach should be considered. This means removing mandatory criminal sanctions and replacing them with alternatives that promote access to harm reduction and treatment services. A substance use disorder is not a crime but a public health issue.
There is a large body of evidence illustrating the effectiveness of Supervised Consumption Sites in achieving a number of health and social objectives, especially when impacted people are offered access to integrated health and social services. While the MACP recognizes the value of this harm reduction approach, there remains multiple issues of concern such as the need for safe supply, and lack of community consultation/dispute resolution processes; there is also some evidence that an identified risk of neighbourhood degradation and other social challenges are possible in areas containing, or close to, Supervised Consumption Sites.
Therefore, at this point, subject to further study specific to requirements in Manitoba, The MACP does not support supervised consumption sites. However, if mandated, the MACP maintains that supervised consumption sites should be a local community decision that involves the police of jurisdiction and health services as part of the site approval process.
“The Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police supports all government initiatives that help make Manitobans safe. That said, the recent announcement from the federal government in relation to supporting municipalities that want to pass handgun restrictions may be of limited value. Canada currently has significant restrictions and prohibitions on handguns and it is uncertain at this point how municipal bylaws would make the current laws more effective. We will keep an open mind however and will participate in any municipal or Provincial initiatives if asked.”
The Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police supports the use of body-worn cameras/computers as a viable solution to address transparency, quality of evidence, the disclosure process, and safety issues related to front-line police officers. While there does not appear to be conclusive evidence to date to show that body cameras decrease violent incidents with police, there are substantive other benefits associated with increased public trust and confidence that significantly support the use of this technology. Cost and privacy issues continue to evolve but must be given due deliberation when considering the use of, and policy development for body-worn cameras/computers.
Today, the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP) is making a public plea to the provincial government to immediately include police officers as a priority group within the vaccination roll-out plan.
Throughout this pandemic, police officers across the province have worked to ensure the safety and security of all Manitobans. For police officers, much like other first-responders, their front-line work never stopped.
In the early days of the pandemic, when little was known about the virus and personal protective equipment was in short supply, these officers continued to carry-out their critical duties. They did so, not only because of their sworn duty to protect but also because they care deeply about the communities they serve and the wellbeing of the people of Manitoba.
The fear of contracting COVID-19 is real for police officers as their work regularly brings them into confined spaces and close contact with a number of people. This concern remains ever-present. On a daily basis, our members attend private residences, vehicle collisions, and crime scenes. They respond to individuals in medical distress, transport patients to medical help, make life-saving efforts including the performance of CPR, trauma first aid, delivery of Naloxone, and the like. They intervene in situations where individuals may be severely intoxicated, badly injured, or violent. They do not have the opportunity to socially distance during these interactions. On every shift, our frontline officers face a significant risk of exposure to COVID-19.
And our concern is not solely about our officers contracting the virus, but also unknowingly becoming carriers, and potentially spreading it to the most vulnerable segments of our society. On a daily basis, officers work closely with the elderly, people experiencing homelessness and those suffering from drug or alcohol dependencies. The MACP is aware of multiple instances where officers provided CPR to persons who were later confirmed to be COVID-19 positive.
For the RCMP and the Manitoba First Nations Police Service, their officers work and live in many remote and isolated First Nation communities. Often, these officers are required to attend calls and provide essential policing services to multiple remote communities. While every precaution is taken, there is always a potential for an officer to spread the virus. The emergence of virus variants makes this risk doubly concerning.
While Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization statement (NACIs guidance) on the COVID-19 vaccine, states that “Many essential services (e.g. police, firefighters, food production) cannot be provided virtually, potentially leading to an increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Immunizing essential workers minimizes the disproportionate burden of those taking on additional risks to maintain services essential for the functioning of society.” Regretfully, not all provinces (including Manitoba) have opted to follow the NACI guidelines.
The MACP has been a strong supporter of every action taken by MB Public Health to protect lives during the pandemic, including the roll-out of the vaccination plan. There is no doubt that we need to make sure that the most vulnerable are taken care of first. But then we also need to make sure that those who protect them are protected from the virus as well.
We strongly believe the time has come for the provincial vaccination plan to prioritize police officers. This has been done in other provinces and it must be done here. With the new variants now spreading, officers must be vaccinated so that they can continue to provide their critical service to the people of Manitoba, and so that the people they serve can stay safe.
We are urging the provincial government to help our police officers and to help keep our communities and our most vulnerable safe.
MACP President Marc Robichaud and Executive Board
For further information please contact: