Liberals’ patchwork approach to the national toxic drug crisis is irresponsible « Canada’s NDP

May 31, 2022 at 7:30 am  Federal, Politics

Today, NDP mental health and harm reduction critic Gord Johns made the following statement:

“Families across Canada have experienced the devastating impacts of the toxic drug crisis. In the last six years, over 27, 000 Canadians have died as a result of the toxic drug supply. And throughout the pandemic, this crisis only got worse.

This is a national crisis. Without a national, health-based approach, people across the country will face barriers to accessing support and remain at greater risk of harm. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in drug-related hospitalizations and deaths over the past two years – not just in British Columbia but across Canada. While Canadians have been dying, the Liberals have dragged their feet, letting preventable these deaths happen.

The Liberals’ decision to accept British Columbia’s request to decriminalize personal possession of controlled substances comes a day before the vote on an NDP bill that would ensure a national approach. It is clear that Liberals would not have moved ahead with this exemption without the leadership of the BC NDP, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the federal NDP. While this announcement is an important step, it will leave Canadians living outside of that province asking themselves ‘if this is okay for British Columbia, why it is not for the rest of the country? And why is the Liberal government not moving forward with a national solution?’

I have spoken to families in communities across the country, public health experts, as well as advocacy and harm reduction organizations who have been pleading with the government to support Bill C-216. The piecemeal, incremental approach the Liberals are taking to a nationwide health crisis is costing lives every day. There is no silver bullet to this crisis, but we must act urgently to pull all the levers we can. The bill we’ve introduced would decriminalize personal possession across Canada, allow record expungement for past convictions, and develop a strategy to address root causes of problematic substance use while filling gaps in education and prevention as well as access to safer supply, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services. Experts have advised the Liberal government for over a year to make these changes, but they haven’t acted – the least they could do is vote yes on my bill, sending it to Committee so MPs can hear directly from experts and people with lived experience.

It is hard to understand why the Liberal government seems unwilling to support our legislation that is intended to save lives so that more and more families aren’t forced to bury their loved ones.”

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