Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the opioid crisis is devastating communities and families across Canada.
After going on a ride-along on Friday with Vancouver police in the city’s Downtown Eastside, Trudeau said the number of drug overdose deaths is particularly high in British Columbia but the problem isn’t unique to the province.
“The impact has been devastating. Families ripped apart. Communities forever altered. Loved ones lost too soon,” he told a news conference after meeting with first-responders and health-care workers.
“This is a crisis that seems, for most Canadians, to be very far away. Something that’s limited to certain tougher parts of town, to the West Coast, but we are seeing a spread of opioids across the country and we’re seeing it spread far and wide across socio-economic levels, across communities.
“We need to come together as a country to help our most vulnerable.”
Asked if the government would help fund heroin treatment programs, as has been recommended by officials in British Columbia, Trudeau said there is no one solution to the problem. Social policies that tackle mental health, housing and economic opportunities are also key components in the fight against the overdose crisis, he said.
Trudeau said the government has reintroduced harm reduction as “a pillar of our comprehensive drug strategy” by expanding access to the opioid antidote naloxone.
Ottawa is also trying to streamline the application process for communities that want to open safe consumption sites.
The illicit drug overdose crisis claimed 922 lives in British Columbia last year. Trudeau says he discussed the issue with Premier Christy Clark on Thursday night and has been speaking to big city mayors as well.