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

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
COVID-19: Qualicum Beach baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

The Town of Qualicum Beach will put aside money for future purchase of electric vehicle and to put up charging stations. (Photo Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions)
Qualicum Beach to put aside funds for purchase of electric vehicles, charging stations

Citizens can donate funds to help reduce emissions in town

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

Most Read