Government must treat opioid overdoses as a national public health emergency

Earlier today, NDP Health Critic, Don Davies, issued the following statement:
 

"The number of Canadian lives being lost to opioid overdoses during the COVID-19 outbreak is staggering, alarming, and growing. Today, I am calling on the federal government to declare the overdose epidemic a national public health emergency, and for national action and leadership.

In my home province of British Columbia, 401 people have died from opioid overdoses in the last three months alone. In May, B.C. saw 170 overdose deaths. This is the highest number ever recorded in a single month.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that 15,393 Canadians have died from opioid overdoses in the last four years. Tragically, the death toll will likely be worse in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19: social isolation, an increasingly toxic illicit supply, and reduced access to harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services.

Just as COVID-19 is a pandemic, so is the growing wave of deaths across our nation caused by overdoses.

The Liberal government has repeatedly said their response to the COVID-19 pandemic has relied on the advice of Canada's public health officials. And yet, the Liberals have refused to act on the evidence-based recommendations of public health officials - including B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry - in response to the overdose epidemic.

These experts have long called on the federal government to end the criminalization of people who use drugs and replace toxic illicit drugs with medically-regulated alternatives. Substance consumption and addiction must be treated as a health issue, not a criminal one.

The federal government must treat the overdose epidemic with the same respect for science and evidence as they have claimed to have for the COVID-19 pandemic. They cannot listen selectively to public health officials, choosing only to follow advice that suits their political biases.

Canadians need immediate action to bring this long-standing crisis under control."