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Feds update anti-drug strategy, making it easier to open safe injection sites

WATCH: There has been a major development in the effort to reduce the skyrocketing number of drug overdoses in this country. The federal government has unveiled a new strategy. It includes, making it easier to set up supervised drug injection sites. Shirlee Engel reports.

OTTAWA – The federal government is making it easier to set up supervised drug injection sites in Canada while cracking down on illicit shipments of fentanyl and the import of equipment used to make pills and capsules.

Health Minister Jane Philpott and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced the proposed changes to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act after question period today.

Philpott is billing the changes as part of the Liberal government’s overall effort to take Canada’s drug strategy out of the realm of criminal justice and into the public health fold.

READ MORE: Kelowna business association opposes proposed safe injection facility location

Canada currently has only two drug injection sites in Canada, both in Vancouver, and existing laws allow such sites to operate only in exceptional circumstances.

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Philpott says the new law would make it easier for such sites to be established, provided they can demonstrate a compelling public health need and a lack of risk to public safety.

WATCH: On Monday, Minister of Health Jane Philpott spoke about Bill C-37, a new strategy to tackle problematic use of drugs and substances, following the “serious growing health crisis” of opioid overdoses and deaths in Canada. Philpott added the new bill will replace the current national anti-drug strategy. 

New bill aims to reframe problematic substance use in Canada
New bill aims to reframe problematic substance use in Canada

The new legislation would also lift a restriction that prevents border guards from inspecting packages that are under 30 grams in weight, provided they have reason to believe the packages contain illegal drugs.

READ MORE: Restrictions on fentanyl-making chemicals now in effect

Today’s announcement comes amid concern among health officials and political leaders about the alarming number of fatalities across Canada from overdoses of the deadly opiod fentanyl.

Goodale says an amount of fentanyl roughly the size of a grain of salt can cause a serious overdose.

In British Columbia alone, officials say there have been 622 drug overdose deaths between January and October, about 60 per cent of them involve fentanyl.

The federal government announced last month it was taking steps to control six chemicals used to make fentanyl.

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WATCH: Firefighters plea for help amid fentanyl crisis

Firefighters plea for help amid fentanyl crisis
Firefighters plea for help amid fentanyl crisis