NDP to introduce new bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar
Published February 1, 2022 at 4:28 pm
OTTAWA — The federal NDP hopes to push the government to take stronger action on the opioid crisis with a new private member’s bill decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use.
Leader Jagmeet Singh is putting his weight behind the bill, tabled by his NDP colleague Gord Johns, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs including cocaine and heroin.
Singh says changing the law will make it easier to help drug addicts, treating them as people with a health problem, rather than criminals. He says 20,000 Canadians have died of an overdose over the last five years.
A private member’s bill, especially when put forward by an opposition MP, has a lower chance of surviving the legislative steps to become law. NDP MP Don Davies introduced a similar bill last year which fizzled out.
But the party hopes this legislation will be debated and possibly even put to a vote, after Johns came in fourth in a random draw to determine the order of precedence for private member’s bills in this Parliament.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created his new cabinet last fall, he established a new mental health and addictions minister, Carolyn Bennett, and tasked her with forming policies to tackle a spike in opioid addiction.
Maja Staka, a spokeswoman for Bennett, says the government is committed to improving safe supply and using resources to divert people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system.
The government is currently reviewing an application by British Columbia to remove criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2022.
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