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

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

The Okanagan’s first virtual wedding fair will be held Saturday, March 27. {Paul Rodgers photo)
Okanagan to host virtual wedding fair

Okanagan wine country is No. 1 destination for weddings - online event set for March 27

Armstrong’s Albert Boehler, who turns 90 April 3, strums and sings Hobo Bill’s Last Ride on the same Martin acoustic guitar he bought in Winnipeg in 1951. (Boehler family photo)
Armstong almost-nonagenarian still picking on 73-year-old guitar

Albert Boehler, who turns 90 in a month, bought a Martin acoustic guitar in 1951 and plays it today

The Okanagan High Rim Trail officially opened in April 1994. Pictured are Western Canada Wilderness Committee volunteers Bruce Sumner and Jean Elmer. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives photo #14932)
Vernon history in pictures

A look at the opening of a trail running from Vernon to Kelowna

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

(Contributed)
Kelowna flight potentially exposed to COVID-19

Third case on a local flight this month, compared to 14 through January

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Most Read