Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Camille Bains
Page: 6


VANCOUVER - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has closed the door on
decriminalizing illicit drugs to combat a national overdose crisis but
British Columbia's addictions minister says unprecedented deaths are a
"wake-up call" to reconsider that stance.

Trudeau said decriminalization is not the approach Canada will take to
deal with deadly overdoses often involving the opioid fentanyl.

"We are making headway on this and indeed the crisis continues and
indeed spreads across the country but we are not looking at legalizing
any other drugs than marijuana for the time being," Trudeau told a
news conference Thursday at the end of a caucus meeting in Kelowna.

Hours earlier, the BC Coroners Service released statistics saying
fentanyl has been detected in 81 per cent of illicit drug deaths in
the province so far this year - an increase of 143 per cent over the
same period in 2016.

In most cases, the synthetic opioid was combined with other drugs
including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, the service said.

Trudeau said Canada is tackling the overdose issue through a broad
range of actions including "border controls, the inspection of small
packages, by working with our partners, whether it be the United
States or China, by ensuring that all levels of government,
provincial, municipal and federal are working together."

Judy Darcy, British Columbia's minister of mental health and
addictions, said criminalizing people for having limited amounts of
drugs for their own use instead of providing treatment puts them at
risk of fatally overdosing.

"I think we need to have this conversation in this country," she said
of decriminalizing small amounts of drugs such as heroin. "Sometimes
governments need to be pushed."

Darcy said decriminalization would go a long way in destigmatizing
substance use because shame often bars people from getting treatment
or even using supervised consumption sites where staff have access to
overdose-reversing medication.

"If this overdose crisis is not a wake-up call, I don't know what is,"
she said.

"Not treating addiction the way we would any other chronic condition
clearly is not working."

The BC Coroners Service said 876 people died in the province between
January and July, up from 483 fatalities during the same months last
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