A report from the Coroners Service has shown that Toronto exceeded a May record after 175 people died in June from illicit-drug overdoses. Within nine days this month, 15 people had died from overdoses as the city experienced an increase in tainted supply, compounded by isolation during the coronavirus pandemic and fear of prosecution.
As a result of the overdose deaths across the country, people have called for Canadian officials to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs amid an escalating opioid crisis in the state. The advocates argue that criminal prohibitions don’t work to prevent drug use, and locking people up stops them from looking for the assistance they require.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have officially called on Ottawa to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal MP has also called his party for inaction in support of the change. In an interview, he said he did not understand how police chiefs can be more progressive than a Liberal cabinet. Correspondingly, Darryl Gebien, former emergency room doctor, who was imprisoned in 2016 for forging prescription opioids, is advocating for the change.
According to Bill Sinclair, CEO of the Neighbourhood Group in Toronto, criminalization impedes the work of some treatment center. Bill said he did not shut his center regardless of the pandemic lockdown because he wanted to assist the people who were in need. He argued that closing was a matter of life and death. Besides, he said people were hiding and dying alone because of the risk of criminal prosecution that was unnecessary and getting in the way of them connecting with health care and other services that could make their lives better.
Premier John Horgan has urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond to the crisis with reforms in support of the change. Through a letter, Horgan has stated that they are losing family members, friends, neighbors as well as their colleagues; hence they needed to do more. Even though Horgan said he had not heard from the prime minister yet, he is still optimistic ahead of a Friday discussion between the province and Ottawa.