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B.C. Premier John Horgan 'regrets' comments on addiction, says he 'mischaracterized the challenges'

Last Updated Jul 17, 2020 at 12:12 pm PDT

FILE - B.C. Premier John Horgan talked with the prime minister about the coronavirus pandemic Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Premier John Horgan says he 'regrets' controversial comments about addiction he made on Thursday

Horgan suggested on Thursday that using drugs is initially a choice that becomes a dependency, raising some eyebrows

The premier made the comments while reacting to the latest numbers from the BC Coroners Service

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – B.C. Premier John Horgan says he regrets what he said about drug addiction on Thursday.

The premier is walking back comments he made after it was announced B.C. recorded the highest monthly total of suspected overdose deaths in June, a month after a record was set.

“I regret that I mischaracterized the challenges of addictions,” Horgan said Friday. “I know addiction comes from a place of despair and from trauma, and I regret that on the third question (Thursday) about comparing COVID to the opioid crisis that my effort to try and get the point across that these are two completely different things, that I spoke longer than I could have or should have. That’s not my point of view. I mischaracterized the situation and I regret that very much.”

On Thursday, Horgan had suggested that using drugs is initially a choice that becomes a dependency, a comment that raised some eyebrows.

“I just think that these are two separate things. We have an insidious virus that affects anyone, at any time, and we have an opioid crisis that involves people using drugs,” Horgan said on Thursday. “Those are choices, initially, and then they become dependencies. So, once people make those choices, they no longer are in a position to stop making those choices without intervention, without medical intervention.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry came to Horgan’s defence after his comments, saying, “I have regular conversations with the premier and I’m sure if that’s the way it came out, that was probably not his intent.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix also offered his two cents, saying Horgan has been an advocate for addiction support.

“The fact that since March we’ve taken unprecedented action in terms of prescription alternatives, facing and addiction issues, led by the premier, added eviction beds, we are treating this as a public health emergency because it is, and no one believes that more strongly than premier Horgan,” Dix said.

The BC Coroners Service reported on Thursday that 175 people had died in June from an illicit drug overdose. That’s up from the previous record of 171 deaths in May.

The highest number of recorded overdose deaths before May was in December 2016 when 161 lives were claimed.

-With files from Liza Yuzda and Mike Hall