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

UPDATE: Delta call centre to report gatherings, access help during COVID-19 pandemic now open

Mayor George Harvie, DPD Chief Neil Dubord spoke about the centre during a virtual townhall March 26

Surrey Board of Trade helping businesses access COVID-19 programs

‘So many businesses have either phoned or emailed not only myself but my staff in tears,’ CEO Anita Huberman says

Former Surrey Eagle home from ‘quiet, empty’ Italy after hockey season cancelled

Delta-born Anthony Bardaro has spent last three seasons playing professionally in Europe

Delta council passes bylaw to fine people who don’t socially distance, respect closures

Not social distancing or obeying provincial orders in Delta could set you back hundreds of dollars

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

MARCH 30: Lifelabs reduces public hours, Ottawa’s proposed wage-subsidy program expanded

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Canadian COVID-19 update: Cases spike in Quebec & Ontario; Nine O’Clock Gun salutes health workers

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 12:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Snowfall warning in effect for Coquihalla Highway

Total accumulations of up to 25 cm can be expected by this evening

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

Fraser Valley sex offender charged again less than two months after prison release

Taylor Dueck, who was living in Mission, has history of sex assaults in Abbotsford

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

Metro Vancouver firm gears up to make vital ventilator parts in COVID-19 fight

Langley’s Simalex Manufacturing is handling big orders as demand surges

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

Most Read