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

Nuxalk Public Health Nurse Sophie Mack is all smiles as she vaccinates her dad, hereditary chief James Mack Sr., with his first dose of the Moderna vaccine (photo submitted)
Cases drop as vaccine continues to roll out in Bella Coola

Seniors at Mountain View Lodge, Nuxalk elders, hospital staff and long-term care residents have all started to receive their vaccines so far

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is displayed on Jan. 5, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
Power outage spoils COVID-19 vaccine at Tl’etinqox

Temperature-sensitive vaccine no longer viable after Jan. 18 event

Nuxalk elder Caroline Mack, 85, receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 19, at the Nuxalk Hall. (Caitlin Thompson photo)
First vaccines roll out for Nuxalk elders, hospital staff and long-term care residents

The Moderna vaccine arrived in Bella Coola on Sunday, Jan. 17

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Most Read