The Federal Government has said no to decriminalizing any other drugs aside from marijuana, despite calls to the contrary from across the country and here in Simcoe-Muskoka. A spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says Ottawa has already taken steps to break down stigma and barriers to treatment, but is not looking to decriminalize or legalize any other drug.
Two Billion Dollars a Year in Canada
The Simcoe-Muskoka Board of Health disagrees with this move, as its Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lisa Simon, says incarcerating drug users doesn’t help anybody. “We know that criminalization leads to stigma, which actually is a barrier to seeking care,” says Dr. Simon, “and then for society as a whole, criminalization of drugs costs a great deal of money, for enforcement, for justice, for corrections, estimated at $2 billion a year in Canada.”
Portugal Setting An Example
Dr. Simon says there is a precedent in decriminalization, as health care professionals look to Portugal as an example, “they paired decriminalization along with an investment in health services such as treatment and harm reduction. Through that combination, they did see a reduction in overdose deaths and an increase in entry to drug treatment.”
Local Call Mirrors Those of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver
The Simcoe-Muskoka Board of Health isn’t alone. Not only is it endorsing a statement by the Canadian Public Health Association calling for the decriminalization of psychoactive drugs, many other communities are echoing that statement. Toronto Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa has also called for the decriminalization of drugs, a call repeated by officials in Montreal. Vancouver’s Mayor has long called for the decriminalization of all drugs.
A Health Canada report last month found that nearly 4,000 Canadians died from an apparent opioid overdose in 2017.