Feds decriminalizing drugs possible if Jagmeet Singh pushes for it, expert says

Feds decriminalizing drugs possible if Jagmeet Singh pushes for it, expert says

National pharmacare was one of Singh’s most highly-touted platform policies

If NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was truthful in his election pledge to treat the opioid crisis as a national health emergency he might be the difference between life and death for those struggling with addiction, one researcher says.

Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, told Black Press Media Tuesday that combating the war on drugs by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals will all depend on how hard Singh pushes for action.

ALSO READ: Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

“They [the Liberals] know many people have been calling for decriminalization, including many public health officials, and they have said in the lead up to the election they aren’t going to talk about it or consider it,” MacPherson said.

“The NDP have been very clear; they are clearly for decriminalization of possession of illegal drugs for personal use, like other countries have done, such as Portugal or Czech Republic.”

In B.C., roughly five people are dying from illicit drug overdoses every two days, according to the most recent data from the B.C. Coroners Service. Across the country, more than 13,000 people have fatally overdosed since 2016, causing Canada’s average life expectancy to decrease for the first time in four decades.

READ MORE: Decriminalizing drugs the next steps in fighting B.C.’s opioid crisis, doctor says

Within the last two years, a number of vocal health advocates – including two of B.C.’s top doctors – have called for governments to make prescription heroin and other opioid replacements accessible in order to combat the toxic street supply.

Better access to health care, specifically national pharmacare, was one of Singh’s most highly-touted platform policies. On the campaign trail, Singh said he’d declare the overdose crisis a national health emergency if elected – a move that former federal health minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor and the Liberals have refused to do.

READ MORE: Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

He also said he’d stop the criminalization of people dealing with addiction. But the NDP leader stopped short of pledging any action on creating a safe drug supply, which MacPherson argued is what is needed in today’s “ongoing overdose and drug poisoning crisis.”

Singh dodged questions by reporters about any plans to form a coalition-like agreement with Trudeau and his newly elected minority government during a news conference in Burnaby Tuesday.

MacPherson said its promising that an elected politician with potential weight in future legislative decisions is based out of Metro Vancouver, where the lions share of overdose deaths are happening.

On the other hand, minority governments also tend to leave parties acting more risk averse when it comes to controversial legislation – and drug decriminalization is certainly no exception – MacPherson said.

“This minority federal government might be willing to take the next steps, but only if they are pushed forward by the NDP,” he said. “If they choose to push forward other issued like pharmacare or housing or whatever, they might not be prioritizing decriminalization.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all candidates forum for the Coast Mountains School District trustee by-election on Feb. 23, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Terrace trustee candidates lay out top priorites during virual all candidates forum

All candidates forum was held virtually on Feb. 23, 2021

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
COVID-19 exposure notice shuts down Hazelton school

Closure to last for one week and school is to be sanitized

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Most Read