Toronto’s chief medical officer of health is calling on the federal government to decriminalize the personal use of all drugs as part of a strategy to treat addiction as a public health matter.
“The criminalization of people who take drugs is contributing to the overdose emergency because it forces people into unsafe drug use practices and creates barriers to seeking help,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, stated in a media release on Monday.
“This is why I am calling on the federal government to take urgent action.”
The chief medical officer’s recommendation was part of a report based on consultation with general public as well as drug users. A motion on the matter will be considered at an upcoming meeting of Toronto’s Board of Health.
LISTEN: Toronto’s chief medical officer on why she’s calling for decriminalization
“The evidence on the health and social harms of our current criminalization approach to illegal drugs as well as that of alternative approaches such as decriminalization and legal regulation strongly support the need to shift to a public health approach to drugs in Canada,” the report stated.
“The community dialogue process confirmed that Torontonians agree the current approach is not working, and we should treat drug use as a public health and social issue, not a criminal issue.”
Toronto continues to grapple with a crisis in opioid use. According to preliminary data, 303 people lost their lives to opioid overdoses in Toronto last year — an increase of 63 per cent over the previous year.
In addition to calling for the federal government to boost prevention, harm reduction and addictions treatment services, the motion asks Ottawa to put together an expert task force to explore options “for the legal regulation of all drugs in Canada.”
WATCH: Trudeau not looking at decriminalizing opioids as crisis mounts (August 2017)