VANCOUVER — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is moving forward “aggressively” on ensuring a safe drug supply amid an ongoing overdose crisis that’s claimed more than 900 lives in B.C. alone this year.
Speaking on CBC Radio in Vancouver, he says his government is basing its approach on science and evidence, looking at the crisis through the lens of health rather than justice.
Trudeau says the government is heeding the advice of top public health officials, including B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.
Both doctors have called for increased access to a safe supply of illicit drugs to prevent deaths from toxic substances and extreme concentrations of powerful opioids, such as fentanyl.
Henry continues to call for the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs for personal use and last month Tam made the same suggestion.
Pressed on whether his government would consider that move, Trudeau says a safe supply is the key “and that is wat we’ve moved forward on without having to take the step to decriminalization.”
B.C. recorded a near-record 175 overdose deaths in July, surpassing murders, car crashes, suicides, and COVID-19 deaths combined, as health officials blame a toxic drug supply and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The total is just two fewer than the provincial record of 177 set in June, and the third straight month with more than 170 overdose deaths.
The July total is also a 136 per cent increase compared to the same month a year ago and continues to surpass the number of deaths due to homicides, motor vehicle incidents, suicides and COVID-19 combined.
Vancouver and other parts of the province shone with purple lights Monday to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day.