Will Mississauga, Peel police and public health follow Toronto’s call to decriminalize illegal drugs?

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Published December 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

Toronto’s top doc wants to decriminalize drugs but officials in Peel say there’s work to be done before taking a stance in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.

On Monday (Dec. 6) a report from Toronto’s medical officer will recommend asking the federal government to permit simple possession of all drugs.

Toronto police Chief James Ramer said decriminalization and harm reduction are “more effective” ways to address public health and safety harms related to substance use.

The report is being studied by Peel Public Health, and medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh said PPH has “reengaged” with community partners to look at the Region’s opioid strategy.

He said any possible decisions would be made “in full understanding with the board of health and relevant community partners.”

“We do recognize that many issues with drug and substance use are largely health issues as opposed to criminal issues, but we do want to make sure that we’re having those conversations and understanding our specific community context before recommending a major position at this time,” Loh said at a press conference on Thursday.

Loh said harm reduction addressing the opioid crisis was one of the few priority services that continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that PPH has been working with community partners to implementing the Region’s opioid strategy released in 2019.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who also sits on the Peel Police Board, said she wants to discuss the Toronto report with council and the board before taking a position “one way or another.”

Requests for comment from Peel Regional Police were not immediately returned, but the force did launch a new mental health and addiction strategy earlier this week.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health said it will review recommendations from municipalities and is committed to combatting the opioid crisis.

The ministry said it has allocated $30 million for up to 21 consumption and treatment sites and has invested $32.7 million for “targeted addictions services and supports, including treatment and care for opioid use disorder.”

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