Article by Travis Lupick, Georgia Straight
Toronto’s top doctor has come out in favour of decriminalizing the personal possession of drugs, including hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.
She joins top health officials in Vancouver and B.C. who, for several years now, have recommended the Canadian government remove criminal penalties for people caught with small amounts of illicit narcotics.
“Our belief, based on the evidence, is that the criminalization of people who take drugs actually is contributing to this opioid-overdose emergency in our city, because it forces people into unsafe drug practices and actually presents a barrier to those who might be interested in seeking help for addressing opioid-use disorders,” Toronto medical health officer Dr. Eileen de Villa told the Globe and Mail.
Her comments follow the publication of a report for the Toronto board of health wherein the medical health officer officially recommends decriminalization as part of Canada’s response to an epidemic of drug-overdose deaths.
Last March, the city of Vancouver officially “recommended” that the Government of Canada “immediately” decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs. On April 6, Mayor Gregor Robertson followed up with a statement strongly supporting the idea.
“We are losing our friends and family to a poisoned drug supply and a legal framework that treats addiction as a criminal issue, not a life-threatening health condition,” Robertson said. “Decriminalizing possession, combined with health care supports including prevention, harm reduction, and treatment, will save many lives,” he added.
The Toronto medical health officer’s report also suggests that Ottawa appoint a task force to examine the idea of fully legalizing and regulating the production and distribution of street drugs.