Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speak to the media during a visit to the Molson Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Thursday, January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Federal health minister says too early for broad drug decriminalization

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was not convinced that decriminalizing hard drugs is the solution to the opioid crisis

Canada’s health minister says talk about decriminalizing drugs to deal with the country’s opioids crisis is premature until people have enough help to fight their addictions.

Countries that have taken that step have supports in place to protect people, said Patty Hajdu, who toured the Molson Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Thursday with Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“My personal perspective on decriminalization is that it can’t be done in a broad sweep,” she said.

The way services are delivered in Canada vary from province to province in terms of what kinds of supports are available, she said.

“So I think that having a comprehensive kind of approach that includes things like prevention, treatment, harm reduction, enforcement, housing, those are the kind of things that are actually going to start to move the needle,” Hajdu said.

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

“It’s too premature to have a conversation about full decriminalization of substances until we get to the place where we have comprehensive support for people to get well.”

She said the crisis stems from people struggling with “dire health situations” that need a compassionate and pragmatic response.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was not convinced that decriminalizing hard drugs is the solution to the opioid crisis, and other options need a chance.

The most recent figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that nearly 14,000 Canadians have been killed by opioids since 2016.

Hajdu said the Liberals have invested significantly in ways that are making a difference. Deaths due to overdose are going down because people have wider access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, she said.

Stewart said Vancouver has been at the epicentre of the overdose crisis.

“But we’re suddenly seeing it now move across the country with basically the cause being a poison drug supply.”

Hajdu said Vancouver has been leading the way on drug policy.

Harm reduction along with collaboration between public health agencies, non-profit organizations and the city is important to make progress, she said.

What works in Vancouver might not work in Thunder Bay or Edmonton, she said, adding that the federal government would like to see solutions that are rooted in local community support.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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

WEATHER: Langley to see sunny weather before rain makes a comeback

Fog patches are expected to dissipate Tuesday morning

VIDEO: Giants win 10th straight on home ice in Langley

Family Day was about spending time with the fans and dazzling them with a 3-2 victory over Seattle

VIDEO: Planes and hockey games – Family Day around Langley

Museum of Flight held an annual gathering while the Vancouver Giants faced off against Seattle

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Woman charged after alleged fuel thefts, ramming of RCMP car in B.C. Interior

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

No dramatic shifts expected as B.C. government tables new budget today

Finance Minister Carole James has promised to stay the course when she tables the budget in the legislature

Surrey RCMP recover $80,000 worth of stolen bikes, weapons

Police found the property after executing two search warrants in Newton

AFN national chief calls for calm on Wet’suwet’en crisis, rail blockades

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline

Federal, B.C. ministers seek meeting with Wet’suwet’en in hope of blockade solution

Coastal GasLink signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route

Flight to evacuate Canadians from cruise ship ‘expected’ to depart Japan on Thursday

Canadians seeking to return to home by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Most Read