NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consider decriminalizing all illegal drugs in an effort to combat Canada’s escalating opioid crisis.
Singh, who campaigned on the promise during his party’s recent leadership race, said he will push the federal New Democrats to make the position part of its own formal policy platform.
The NDP is scheduled to hold a policy convention in Ottawa in February.
“We have the evidence,” Singh said in an interview this week. “Why do we continue down a path that makes no sense?”
Singh, a former criminal defence lawyer, has been vocal about the opioid issue ever since becoming the party’s new leader, including during a trip last week to British Columbia, when he paid a visit to an overdose prevention site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In his legal practice, Singh said he witnessed first-hand how the current criminal approach is failing.
“We are prosecuting people and incarcerating people that don’t need to be incarcerated,” he said. “These are folks that need to be helped and supported.”
The majority of Canadians struggling with opioid addiction are also battling problems like mental health challenges and poverty, Singh said, noting that he would exclude drug trafficking from any decriminalization efforts.
On Saturday, Singh told about 2,000 delegates at the B.C. NDP convention that Canada’s drug laws need to change to recognize drug addiction is a social justice issue, not a criminal justice problem.