December 16, 2021
OTTAWA – Over 20,000 Canadians have died of overdoses in the last five years and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid overdose epidemic has gotten even worse. Yesterday, the NDP’s critic for mental health and addictions, Gord Johns, introduced a private member’s bill to tackle this emergency by decriminalizing personal possession and taking a health-based approach to substance use.“While Canadians have been living through the COVID-19 pandemic, another pandemic has also been impacting our communities. Despite what they say, the Liberals have continuously ignored calls from health experts, police chiefs and big Canadian cities to treat the opioid crisis like a health crisis,” said Johns. “The bill I put forward will make sure those suffering with substance abuse issues are not treated like criminals. It will make it easier for people to get the help they need without the stigma and unsafe supply those struggling with addiction have always faced.” If passed, the bill would decriminalize drug possession for personal use, provide criminal record expungement, ensure low-barrier access to safe supply and expand access to crucial harm reduction, treatment and recovery services. British Columbia and major Canadian cities including Vancouver and Toronto have already submitted requests to the federal government for decriminalization, but the Liberals are not responding with the urgency that these requests require which, ultimately, will cost more Canadians their lives. “It is essential that we take a health-based approach to this crisis and not one that punishes those who need our help the most,” added Johns.“I hope that parliamentarians from all parties will support these urgent and necessary steps to address Canada’s overdose epidemic and remove barriers for people to get the help they desperately need.” Johns, NDP health critic Don Davies and all New Democrats will continue to push the Liberal government to make sure more families don’t have to suffer the tragic and avoidable loss of their loved ones.