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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Kitimat RCMP are requesting assistance locating 24-year-old Teah Wilken, who was last seen getting on a bus at City Centre Mall in Kitimat around 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23). Kitimat RCMP Facebook photo.
Kitimat RCMP requesting assistance locating missing woman

Wilken last seen getting on bus at City Centre Mall in Kitimat around 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23)

Maria Lewis president of the Prince Rupert Royal Canadian Legion accepts a $5,000 donation gifted via an artillery shell from Shawn MacDonald governor of the Prince Rupert Loyal Order of the Moose 1051 on Nov. 13.
Major donation overwhelms Prince Rupert Legion

Prince Rupert Moose Lodge 1051 donates $5,000 to local veterans organization

Air Canada /Jazz flight AC8280 on Nov. 16 from Vancouver to Prince Rupert had a confirmed case of COVID-19, said Air Canada on Nov. 20. (File photo)
Flight into city had confirmed case of COVID-19

Nov. 16 flight from Vancouver to Prince Rupert affected by coronavirus

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Most Read