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June 1st, 2022

Liberal government refuses measures to save Canadian lives

This afternoon, Liberals and Conservatives rejected an NDP proposal to address the toxic drug crisis and offer a health-based approach to substance use that public health experts agree would save lives across the country

OTTAWA – After approving a request from the B.C. government to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs yesterday, this afternoon the Liberals refused to provide a national approach to the public health crisis that has claimed the lives of 27,000 Canadians in the last six years. The Liberal government refused the NDP’s proposal to create a national health-based strategy for the toxic drug crisis for the thousands of people impacted by substance use outside of B.C. The NDP’s critic for mental health and harm reduction, Gord Johns, has been touring the country for the last number of months and says it’s unthinkable the government would reject a bill that would reduce the stigma of substance use so that those who use drugs would be able to seek help.

“The toxic drug supply crisis continues to claim lives every single day. Without any changes, families will continue to lose loved ones,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. “It is incredibly cynical for the government to provide support for residents in B.C while telling those who are struggling in other parts of the country that they must fend for themselves. The lack of federal leadership will absolutely cost lives. It’s very disappointing that this government thinks it’s okay to download the responsibility for a national public health crisis onto premiers and municipal leaders. Families and communities are suffering. People are burying their loved ones. What does the government have to say to them?”

Johns’ proposal would have followed the overwhelming evidence and advice of public health experts to decriminalize personal possession, expunge criminal records and create a national substance use strategy to provide a low barrier, regulated safe supply, improve prevention and education efforts, and ensure universal access to treatment and recovery services. Members of the government’s own Expert Task Force on Substance Use released an open letter yesterday calling on them to send Johns’ bill to committee.

Over the past six years the Liberals have not acted to address the toxic drug crisis – and the harm the toxic drug supply is causing is only getting worse. Right now, twenty people in Canada die each day from the toxic drug supply. Each day, twenty families lose their loved ones unnecessarily.

“The Liberals' decision to take a piecemeal approach to the drug crisis is not good enough. The Liberals are just trying to find excuses to save face, but it doesn’t make sense at all to say ‘yes’ to B.C. and leave the rest of the country behind,” said Johns. “Today, the Liberals and Conservatives made the choice to keep sitting by and watching while families bury their loved ones. This is wrong. This is a massive failure to address a national, public health crisis. To the families who shared their stories with me across the country: We will keep fighting for you. We will keep fighting for a comprehensive health-based approach for people struggling with the toxic drug crisis. We won’t give up."