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

North Island All Candidates Meeting scheduled virtually for Oct. 14

‘our local candidates for the B.C. Provincial Election will be joining us’

Abandoned Neucel mill in Port Alice to cost at least $17 million to decommission

Removing hazardous waste and de-risking the site ratchet up bill to taxpayers

Growing food sovereignty at Klemtu

Greenhouse and grow boxes help create circular food economy for Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Gratitude is a great thing, what are you grateful for?

‘I want to say a heartfelt thanks to Steven Cahill for all his hard work over the years’

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Most Read