May 24, 2017 6:09 pm
Updated: May 27, 2017 12:46 pm

New legislation good first step but not enough to curb fentanyl crisis: NDP critic

As the fentanyl crisis escalates, critics want the federal government to do more.

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Recently passed legislation aimed at curbing the influx of opioids into Canada is a good start but won’t be enough to combat the fentanyl crisis, according to NDP Health Critic Don Davies.

“If you were dealing with any other issue where 60 Canadians are dying a week, you’d see more rapid action from the federal government,” Davies told Global News in an interview.

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Bill C-37 received royal assent late last week. It streamlines the approval conditions for safe injection sites and allows Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents to inspect packages that weigh less than 30 grams. Previously, agents had to ask permission from the person sending the letter to inspect it.

“People have asked, ‘Is it really necessary to provide that authority?” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters after the bill passed. “When you’re dealing with an opioid, 30 grams is enough to kill 1,500 people.”

READ MORE: 113 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta in first 3 months of 2017 

While Davies applauds the bill and government attempts to stem the drug trade with China, he’s more concerned with the health-care side of a solution. The British Columbia MP wants a federal strategy to deal with the crisis, one that provides for national data collection and better, more affordable access to treatment.

“If I had a cardiac problem, I’d be driven to the hospital, to get treatment,” Davies said. “But if I have an addiction, it might take a week to get into detox and my family might have to pay $20,000 to get treatment.”

Absent of a national strategy, the federal government has taken a number of steps to address the crisis.

Health Canada is making it easier for provinces to import bulk quantities of the drugs needed to treat opioid addiction like prescription heroin, and last year, Health Minister Jane Philpott authorized use of naloxone nasal spray for non-prescription, which also treats fentanyl addiction.

READ MORE: ‘We will lose an entire generation’: St. Paul’s doctor speaks out on fentanyl crisis

Earlier this year, the Liberals launched a new drug strategy, committing $116 million over five years. Of that, $16 million was directed to B.C. and Alberta specifically to deal with the fentanyl emergency.

But Davies says the money came in the form of a one-time injection, and there’s no more specific emergency funding set aside for the coming years.

“You still need emergency money because the emergency is happening now,” he said. “In 2016, Canada set a record for overdose deaths in this country. In 2017, we’re set to break that record.”

“The federal government needs to put its money where its mouth is.”

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