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February 3rd, 2022

The opioid crisis is killing our loved ones, the Liberals can't ignore it any longer: NDP

Instead of the Liberals' failed criminal justice approach, Canadians need a government that addresses substance use with a public health approach

OTTAWA – Today, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, Gord Johns, introduced the NDP's first initiative in the new parliamentary session – a private member's bill that would help thousands of families dealing with loved ones who use or are addicted to drugs. If passed, among other things the NDP’s bill would decriminalize drug possession for personal use and expand access to crucial harm reduction, treatment and recovery services.

“From big cities to smaller communities, countless families across the country have suffered the devastating impact of the overdose crisis firsthand. In the last five years, 20,000 Canadians have died of drug overdoses and the pandemic has only made things worse,” said Singh. “The Liberal government has failed to treat this crisis with the urgency it demands and it's costing people their lives, and families their loved ones. The government can't continue to ignore calls from public health experts calling on them to take a different approach. With this bill, New Democrats are calling for an evidence-based approach that stops treating drug users as criminals and instead helps them to get the help they need.”

Last year, the cities of Vancouver and Toronto and the province of BC applied to the federal government for the decriminalization of drugs for personal use, a step that was recommended by the Liberal government’s own Expert Task Force on substance use and supported by law enforcement organizations including the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs.

“Justin Trudeau has allowed the stigma around drug use to persist instead of taking real action to save lives. The longer the Liberals drag their feet the more lives that will be lost,” said Johns. “We need to decriminalize immediately and save lives by providing access to a regulated safer supply of drugs for users. Besides these necessary steps, this bill would also require the government to remove barriers to employment, housing and travel for thousands of Canadians by expunging their criminal records for simple possession of drugs. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. I am hopeful that parliamentarians from all parties will support our bill so we can get people the help they need.”

While rates of drug use remain consistent among different racial groups, research shows that Indigenous, Black, and racialized populations are incarcerated for drug offences at far higher rates than non-racialized people. New Democrats will continue to work alongside advocates to deliver justice for marginalized people to ensure that no more lives are needlessly lost.