Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters during a news conference following a visit to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Royalmount Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre facility in Montreal, Monday, Aug 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Trudeau makes rounds in B.C.; says safe drug supply key to fighting overdoses

Top doctors have called for increased access to a safe supply of illicit drugs to prevent deaths

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 what we’ve moved forward on without having to take the step to decriminalization.”

He notes significant investments are still needed in housing, mental health and other support services for people battling addictions and homelessness.

“We know there’s more to do, but we are going to do it responsibly and make sure that we are prioritizing the things that are going to make the biggest difference immediately,” he says.

Trudeau adds his government has moved forward on supporting safe consumption sites and safe supply options despite push back from political rivals.

He’s spending much of Wednesday in meetings with political, business, environmental and academic leaders in B.C. and he’ll do a similar virtual tour of the Atlantic provinces on Thursday.

The summer is usually an opportunity for the prime minister and other federal political leaders to travel widely and engage in outreach with community leaders and voters outside the Ottawa bubble.

Among other things, Trudeau usually convenes a cabinet retreat and attends a Liberal caucus retreat outside the nation’s capital each year before Parliament resumes in the fall. He, his ministers and Liberal MPs use those events to fan out into the host communities, listening to local concerns, making some announcements and generally promoting the government’s message.

READ MORE: Fatal overdoses continue to spike in B.C. as July sees 175 illicit drug deaths

But the need to curb the spread of COVID-19 has put the kibosh on much of that in-person travel this year. Apart from the occasional trip to Toronto, Montreal and communities near Ottawa, Trudeau has been forced to stay home — and find other ways to conduct regional outreach.

Newly minted Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was similarly forced to figure out other ways to woo supporters across the country during his party’s months-long leadership contest.

What political leaders have learned about pandemic-era campaigning and outreach could be useful should Trudeau’s minority government be defeated on the throne speech he intends to unveil on Sept. 23, detailing what he has promised will be a bold plan for economic recovery.

Trudeau’s virtual tours of B.C. and the Atlantic provinces are at least in part devoted to consultations on that recovery plan.

In addition to a meeting today with B.C. Premier John Horgan, Trudeau is scheduled to hold a roundtable with the province’s business and environmental leaders on the measures needed to ensure a green, sustainable economic recovery.

Participants in the roundtable are to include Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada; Greg D’Avignon, president of the B.C. Business Council; Carol Anne Hilton, founder and CEO of the Indigenomics Institute; Darcy Dobell, chair of Ocean Networks Canada; Christine Bergeron, interim president and CEO of Vancity; Mark Jaccard, sustainable energy professor at Simon Fraser University; and Kevin Desmond, CEO of TransLink.

Trudeau is also scheduled to meet virtually with University of British Columbia faculty members and private sector partners who’ve been working on federally funded projects to help support to transition back to work and innovative production of personal protective equipment.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

DrugsJustin Trudeauopioid crisisopioidsoverdose crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Community celebrates new mural at the entrance to Harbour Quay

The image depicts the history of Tseshaht First Nation

Drive-by Port Alberni Toy Run records 300 riders

The Langley Chapter of Harley Owners Group donated $2,000

Go By Bike Week goes virtual in Port Alberni

Celebration of cycling will take place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4.

New seniors’ housing complex proposed for Port Alberni

Developers targeting more active seniors, offering ‘age in place’ model

Upgrade on the books for contentious intersection in Port Alberni

Province promises survey, changes at Beaver Creek and River Roads in 2021

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

Most Read