Health minister sidesteps MP Don Davies' call for public health emergency on overdoses

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      More than three years ago, B.C.'s public health officer declared a public health emergency following a sharp rise in drug-overdose deaths.

      A byproduct was more rapid information-sharing about overdoses, which has led to public warnings to prevent deaths.

      B.C.'s health minister at the time was Terry Lake, who is the federal Liberal candidate in Kamloops.

      However, the Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has not declared a federal public health emergency around overdose and overdose deaths.

      This is despite one opioid-related death every two hours in Canada in 2018.

      On Friday (June 14), NDP health critic Don Davies pointed out in Question Period that 11,500 Canadians died from opioid overdoses between 2016 and 2019.

      In the preamble to his question, the MP for Vancouver Kingsway also stated that opioid deaths have increased in every year of the Liberals' mandate.

      "This is a true epidemic," Davies said. "The Liberals say that they are doing everything possible, but they are not.

      "We need a national declaration of a public health emergency, federal funding for overdose prevention sites, more investments into treatments and an end to the cause of this carnage, which is a poisoned street supply."

      Then came Davies' question: "Why are the Liberals refusing to take these overdue measures that will save lives?"

      Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor didn't answer why there's been no declaration of a public health emergency.

      She didn't address the NDP MP's point that there's been no federal funding for overdose treatment sites.

      And she sidestepped the issue of a poisoned street supply.

      Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has come under fire from the NDP for not dealing with the "poisoned drug supply".

      Yet Petitpas Taylor still insisted that her government is taking action.

      "We have invested more than $350 million to ensure more treatments are available to Canadians," the health minister said. "We have also introduced harm reduction as a key pillar to our drug strategy. Also, we have approved more than 40 supervised consumption sites."

      Petitpas Taylor closed her response with this comment: "We will continue to work with our partners on the ground to ensure we do all that we can to turn the tide on this national public health crisis."

      In February 2018, Davies called on the Liberal government to abandon the failed war on drugs and adopt a health-based approach to addiction and drug use.

      Video: on February 1, 2018, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said that her government was not looking at decriminalizing or legalizing any drugs other than cannabis.

      Petitpas Taylor responded back then that she and her colleagues recognize that they're facing a national public health crisis.

      She also maintained that it was being treated as a public health issue and not a criminal matter.

      "We are not looking at decriminalizing or legalizing any other drugs aside from cannabis," Petitpas Taylor said, "as decriminalizing would not ensure quality control of drugs, and there would still be the risk of contamination on the streets."