Overdose deaths reach 343 in 2016
An increasing number of fentanyl overdose deaths in Alberta has
prompted the government to announce new efforts to combat the opioid.
Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne says 343 people died from
fentanyl overdoses last year - a 25 per cent increase from 257 deaths
The total number of deaths was 117 the year before
"Opioid overdoses and deaths are a public health crisis in Alberta,"
Payne said Tuesday at a news conference at a downtown fire hall.
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It's a deadly drug that's use is quickly growing across the nation,
including our own backyard. Fentanyl, an opioid 100 times more toxic
than morphine, is known to cause serious harm to individuals,
To prepare for increased trafficking and save more lives, the RCMP is
ramping up their training across Canada for police dogs and their
handlers. The Coaldale RCMP currently has one police dog team - Cpl.
Jesse Gawne and his canine partner Ejay - who will soon be trained to
detect the illicit drug.
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New provincial statistics paint an increasingly grim picture of
Alberta's fight against fentanyl, as the NDP government escalated its
efforts Tuesday to get more naloxone antidote into the hands of first
Alberta Health's latest opioid report from 2016 suggests a deepening
crisis is playing out across much of the province, where fentanyl was
a factor in 343 overdose deaths last year - up one-third from 2015.
The statistics show the final three months of 2016 were particularly
harsh. The deaths of 111 people were related to fentanyl in that time
frame, more than double the number from the same period in 2015.
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More than 900 British Columbians died of illicit drug overdoses last
year. That's 80 per cent more than 2015, and the highest total ever
recorded in our province. Nor is there an end in sight.
Drug deaths climbed throughout 2016, reaching 142 in the month of
December alone. If that trend continues, we could conceivably see
1,700 fatalities or more this year. Those are disastrous numbers.
The main effort to curtail fentanyl deaths has focused on the antidote
naloxone. Kits are being handed out to users, their families and
first-response teams across the province.
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Amid rising HIV rates and an entrenched needle culture, London
researchers will unveil Wednesday a study on the value of a supervised
injection site in the city.
Researchers interviewed 200 people who are or were injection drug
users to assess people's willingness to use the sites and about 20
representatives from health care, law enforcement, government and
community organizations to get feedback.
"There are several general recommendations based on the results of the
study," but no specific direction to any agency or organization,
Western University researcher Ayden Scheim said Monday.
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With legislation to legalize marijuana expected in the spring, a new
player has emerged on London's increasingly crowded pot-dispensary
The Chronic Hub Social Club has opened at 119 Dundas St., the first
marijuana dispensary to set up shop in the city's core.
The new pot shop brings London's dispensary count to six, four of them
popping up after Justin Trudeau pledged in the 2015 election campaign
to legalize marijuana.
"It's just another reason to come downtown," said Charles Colvin,
chief executive of the Chronic Hub. "That's what you want in your
downtown core, is for people to be down there."
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Fentanyl overdose deaths in Alberta continue to rise, with 343
fatalities in 2016 alone; AHS hopes more emergency workers carrying
the kits will help bring those numbers back down
Another initiative to help prevent opioid overdose deaths will have
firefighters administering naloxone injections, Alberta Health
"Now firefighters across the province can administer injectable
naloxone, giving them an additional life-saving tool when responding
to an overdose call," said associate minister of health Brandy Payne.
Medicine Hat's firefighters do not currently respond to medical
emergencies but that situation is being re-evaluated, said fire chief
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The principle feels counter-intuitive, and for many Canadians, the idea
of applying it in their neighbourhood is instinctively repellent. Make
it easier for intravenous drug users to shoot up by giving them a safe
and legal place to do it? Really? Really. Research and experience from
multiple countries reveal a simple truth, namely that supervised
injection sites work and the most frequently expressed concerns about
them are overblown.
Overdose deaths tend to drop, without an increase in property crime or
drug dealing in the immediate vicinity ( the evidence is less
conclusive on countering the spread of infectious disease). The number
of addicts tends to fall, as do public disorder offences.
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Health Canada is randomly testing medical marijuana for unapproved
pesticides after the chemicals were found in samples.
The announcement comes one month after two medical marijuana companies
voluntary recalled their product after unapproved pesticides -
myclobutanil and bifenazate - were found in the marijuana.
Included among the companies was OrganiGram, a Moncton-based producer
of medical cannabis and Atlantic Canada's only licensed grower of the
Health Canada's regulations only allow a list of 13 pesticides in
medical marijuana, and myclobutanil and bifenazate are not approved.
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Last year, Penticton city council took some bold steps to deal with
the growing problem of medical marijuana dispensaries opening in the
city, culminating in the issuance of temporary use permits as an
If they expected that would prevent them from having to deal with the
problem again, before the expected legalization of marijuana sales is
passed by the federal government later this year, they were mistaken.
Only two permits were issued, and another five applicants were
refused. Not receiving a permit didn't stop Okanagan Cannabis
Solutions, which opened their Main Street location on Jan. 16, or
Jukka Laurio, who applied to the city - and was refused - for
non-profit status for his Association for Medical Marijuana Awareness.
He continues to operate Herbal Green dispensary despite the lack of a
permit, and ongoing fines.
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Vancouver's approach to regulating illegal marijuana dispensaries is
working, says the councillor who helped develop Canada's first
municipal pot licensing regime, even if almost half of the stores
continue to operate outside the bylaw.
Councillor Kerry Jang, point person for the governing Vision Vancouver
party on the marijuana file, said that regardless of how long it takes
to shut down these rogue shops, the city's regulatory program - not
police raids - is paying off. The strategy is meeting the city's
public-health goals of stamping out sales to minors and cutting down
on the armed robberies now plaguing Toronto's illegal dispensary sector.
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Employers have to strike the right balance between employee rights and
the need to operate an efficient workplace
Companies are being urged to create or update their drug and alcohol
policies in light of the growing use of pot for medical purposes and
the pending legalization of marijuana in Canada.
The recent incident of an allegedly impaired Sunwing Airlines pilot,
who was removed from the cockpit of a plane as it was getting ready to
fly out of Calgary, also served as a reminder to organizations why
it's important to have a policy on how to deal with employees who are
drunk or high on the job.
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This is all temporary.
Nelson city council passed the first three readings of a new pot
dispensary bylaw on Monday evening, but their assumption is the
federal government's coming legalization will make their work
redundant within the next three years.
"This really is a temporary thing, allowing this until we see what the
federal government is going to do," councillor Mike Dailly said during
"Then it will be ground zero, and we're going to have to start all
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Prince George RCMP shut down two suspected pot dispensaries in less
than a week.
The first, located in the 700 block of Fourth Avenue, was closed by
police on Feb. 3 and the second, in the 1400 block of Third Avenue,
was closed three days later, RCMP said Tuesday.
The stores appeared to have gotten ahead of themselves as, despite
signaling its intention to do so, the federal government has not yet
And while Vancouver, which has its own police force, has passed bylaws
to regulate the businesses, "any municipality that allows this to
occur does so at its own risk because it's going against federal
legislation," City of Prince George spokesman Mike Kellett said.
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Nenshi wants city prepared for legalization
Denver's Dan Rowland advised Calgary's city council to go slow, expect
the unexpected, and introduce strict regulations and robust
enforcement as Calgary prepares for the looming federal legalization
Denver, Colorado became the first city in the world to legalize
recreational marijuana sales on January 1, 2014, and Rowland was in
Calgary Monday to share what his city has learned at a lengthy council
education session on the drug.
"Part of what I do is to help folks understand that this is not
necessarily a game-changing experience," said Rowland, a citywide
communications adviser with the city of Denver.
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Health Canada, which is facing a growing controversy over tainted
medical marijuana, cannot say with certainty how widespread the use of
banned pesticides is within the industry. Instead, the regulator has
been leaving it up to the growers to police themselves on the use of
potentially harmful chemicals.
In a background briefing with The Globe and Mail, a senior Health
Canada official acknowledged that even though the government prohibits
the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as myclobutanil, the
department has not been testing cannabis growers to ensure the 38
federally licensed companies were, in fact, not using it.
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Marijuana dispensaries are back on city council's agenda today during
what looks to be a jam-packed set of meetings.
McNaughton Support Services, which provides programs for adults and
youth with developmental disabilities, has complained about Okanagan
Cannabis Solutions opening up next door at 575 Main St., without the
"We were relieved when we heard that city council had not issued a
licence for this dispensary, but see that it is now open in spite of
this," director Warren McNaughton wrote in a letter to council.
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Health Canada has approved three supervised consumption sites for
Montreal - the first federal approvals for the harm-reduction
facilities outside of Vancouver as Ottawa presses forward in its
response to Canada's overdose crisis.
Montreal has waited two years for federal sign-off on the sites,
during which fatal overdoses linked to illicit fentanyl have surged in
parts of Canada, notably British Columbia and Alberta. The federal
department announced the approvals on Monday, noting that such sites
have shown positive results in Canada and other countries.
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Here we are in the biggest fatal overdose epidemic in B.C. history and
what's top of mind for the province's addiction treatment experts? The
need to "destigmatize" addiction. In fact, let's not even call the
taking of deadly illegal drugs an "addiction" or "drug abuse" any
more, they tell us. We're supposed to call addicts "patients" with a
Excuse me if I don't buy the nicey-nicey language. And I doubt if most
people who live in the real world and who have to pay millions of
dollars in taxes for all these latest trendy approaches to drug
addiction do, either.
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SDG OPP constables among those road testing equipment that measures
LONG SAULT - SDG OPP officers are testing cutting-edge, high-tech
equipment that will eventually be used to detect drivers who are under
the influence of drugs.
In the far-east portion of the East Region, Consts. Pat Dussault and
Mike Roy - both with the Highway Safety Division unit - are the
hands-on officers, testing two devices: a Securetec drug reader, and
an Alere mobile forensic test system.
"It's an extra tool for us," Dussault said on Friday. "Anything that
helps us combat impaired driving from alcohol or drugs is welcome."
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