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July 11th, 2023

NDP Mental Health and Harm Reduction critic visits Portugal to find solutions for the toxic drug crisis

OTTAWA – On Tuesday night, NDP Mental Health and Harm Reduction critic Gord Johns will head to Portugal, where he will meet with government officials, and harm reduction groups including Canada’s Ambassador to Portugal, Elise Racicot, and João Goulão who spearheaded Portugal’s safe supply and decriminalization policy.

“The toxic drug crisis is devastating. Each year we’re seeing more deaths from toxic drug poisonings than from the year before. Clearly, the approach Canada’s been using isn’t enough,” said Johns. “The government should be learning from others who’ve seemed to handle substance use, and prevention better than Canada has. Like, Portugal, which was once one of Europe’s worst countries for substance use. Yet they’ve seen a sharp decline in overdoses, and substance use, because they had the political will to make necessary investments and policy changes.”

Unlike Portugal, Canada’s seen a sharp uptick in toxic drug-related poisonings and deaths. More than 36,000 Canadians have died since 2016, and this number is only rising.

“Canadians want to know that their government is treating the toxic drug crisis with the seriousness it deserves to prevent more preventable deaths,” added Johns. “We can’t be leaving portions of Canada without support to fight this crisis like the Liberals are doing. Or worse, using fearmongering to fundraise, like the Conservatives.

We need a real plan that fights this crisis, that’s accountable and transparent. That’s why New Democrats have been pushing for a health-based approach to the crisis. We also believe it’s important to work with other countries to figure out the best approach possible so that things can change, and people stop losing their lives.”