April 26th, 2022
NDP MPs met with organizations helping Albertans devastated by the toxic drug crisis
EDMONTON – This weekend, NDP MPs Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona) and Blake Desjarlais (Edmonton Griesbach) were joined by NDP Mental Health and Harm Reduction Critic Gord Johns in Edmonton to meet with local organizations supporting people who use drugs or have a substance use disorder. Johns is touring the country to raise support for his private member’s bill which would decriminalize personal possession of illegal drugs, expunge criminal convictions for personal possession of drugs, and establish a national strategy for substance use among other things.
“Families across our province and country have suffered from the devastating effects of the toxic drug crisis and have lost loved ones,” said Desjarlais. “It’s time for action that actually helps to solve this crisis and save the lives of people suffering in our community.”
“The past two years have been particularly difficult for Albertans,” said McPherson. “The provincial UCP government has rejected harm reduction and is erecting barriers for those seeking help while the federal Liberal government continues to treat substance abuse as a criminal justice issue instead of a health issue. People need their governments to take a different approach – Albertans’ lives depend on it.”
The toxic drug supply and national drug poisoning crisis has led to more than 27,000 deaths across the country in the past six years. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. Last year, Alberta recorded its deadliest year on record for drug overdoses with more than 1,700 deaths. In Edmonton , 624 deaths were related to opioids in 2021 alone.
Johns, McPherson, and Desjarlais joined Bear Clan Beaver Hills House, an Indigenous-led community group, for one of their Edmonton wellness patrols and spoke with drug users and others impacted by the current government policies. Following that outreach, the three MPs attended a community gathering organized by Moms Stop the Harm, an Edmonton-founded advocacy group, to discuss how the government could save lives by supporting the decriminalization of personal possession.
“People are dying while the government fails to change its approach. The stigma drug users face is real; it’s a barrier for people to access the help they deserve. The Liberals aren’t taking the necessary steps to help Albertans,” said Johns. “I hope Members of Parliament from all parties will do the right thing for Canadians and support this bill to save lives.”