Pubdate: Sat, 13 May 2006
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: John Miner, Sun Media


Colleagues Laud Smitherman For Coming Clean About '90s Abuse

LONDON, Ont. -- Applauded for his personal courage by political 
colleagues yesterday, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman said 
he hopes the revelation he was addicted to street drugs in the 1990s 
will help others struggling with substance abuse.

"There is something better on the other side," he said.

"I hope there are some people out there who can read that story and 
it can help put their situation in a better perspective and give them 
a little bit more power to charge through it."

Smitherman made his first public appearance yesterday since revealing 
he had been addicted to illegal drugs for five years and used them 
regularly in Toronto's party scene.

He first talked publicly about his drug use at this week's Courage to 
Come Back Awards, sponsored by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

"It feels right in my bones; I feel good by the decision," he said yesterday.

"It's hard obviously. Some people prefer to keep their skeletons in 
their closet," said Smitherman, who is Ontario's first openly gay 
cabinet minister.

Smitherman said he hasn't spoken to Premier Dalton McGuinty since the 
story broke but had heard from other political colleagues, including 
Conservative Leader John Tory, who sent him a supportive note.

McGuinty, however, said yesterday he's proud of his health minister 
for coming clean about using illegal drugs in his past.

"I think it took a lot of courage for him to own up to that," said 
the premier, who was in Guelph for a funding announcement.

"I hope he will serve as an inspiration to others in Ontario and 
wherever else those who find themselves in the grip of a drug 
addiction, and understand that with perseverance and professional 
help, this is something that you can overcome and that you can enjoy 
tremendous success after that."

McGuinty said he had not known about Smitherman's problems with 
drugs. He also said he would not consider screening cabinet ministers 
for prior drug use.

The premier has acknowledged that he experimented with pot in his own 
youth but now regrets it.

Smitherman has declined to say what drugs he used, but he said he has 
been free of drugs for 10 years.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman