Toronto's Board of Health has voted unanimously to ask the federal government to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illegal drugs in the city.

At a meeting Monday, the board requested that the city's top doctor submit an application to Health Canada for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by the end of the year.

It's the latest step in the city's effort to combat the opioid overdose crisis.

A recent report from Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said there were 531 opioid toxicity deaths in the city last year, an 81-per-cent increase from 2019.

De Villa has said the increase is due to multiple factors, including an unregulated drug supply, as well as pandemic-related service reductions.

The city hosted consultations and engaged with stakeholders on the decriminalization issue between August and November.

The board asked Monday that de Villa, continue consulting closely with people with lived and living experience of drug use, as well as their family members and community-based service providers.

Vancouver made the same decriminalization request to Health Canada earlier this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.