Justin Trudeau talks B.C.’s opioid crisis in Vancouver

The Prime Minister stopped in Vancouver Friday to meet with first-line responders.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks opioid crisis in Vancouver on Friday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Vancouver Friday morning, hearing from first responders about B.C.’s opioid crisis, and participating in a Q and A session with politically-minded youth.

Trudeau visited the new Hope to Health Research Clinic in the Downtown Eastside for a round-table discussion with researchers of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

Later at the Vancouver Convention Centre, he told reporters that the opioid crisis has been devastating, commended first responders and community workers, and said there’s “much more work to do.”

“This is a crisis that seems for most Canadians very far away,” Trudeau said, and mainly found in “tougher” neighbourhoods, but that the crisis is spreading across the country.

“We need to come together as a country, to help our most vulnerable, to recognize the challenges faced day in and day out of by drug users.”

He said strategies tackling the problem include increasing funding, access to treatment, and affordable housing, adding that his government is also working with provinces to implement necessary protocols for doctors to prescribe opioids as way to limit drug abuse.

But the prime minister didn’t have much to say when asked about funding access to medical-grade heroin as a treatment option – a strategy both B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe and provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall have suggested in recent months.

“There are no barriers right now [for] the federal government to do absolutely everything we need, and that’s exactly what we’re working on,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau’s visit to Vancouver began Thursday night when he met with Premier Christy Clark, after passing through Victoria earlier that day.

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His trip to B.C. marks his first visit since he defended the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline in December.