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Manitoba moving too slowly on meth: Mayor Brian Bowman

Brian Bowman says efforts to combat meth need to move faster at all levels of government. Christian Aumell/Global News

Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman says the ongoing meth crisis isn’t going to be solved without an in-depth collaboration between all three levels of government.

Bowman expressed his frustration to 680 CJOB Friday morning that such a sit-down hasn’t happened yet.

“We need action,” he said. “We needed action a long time ago. We need more action sooner from all levels of government.

“That ask is currently out to the provincial and federal governments. In the meantime, we’re going to take the steps we can on the ground in our community to help those that need help.”

Health minister Cameron Friesen told Global News on Thursday that a comprehensive meth strategy is in the works, although the full details of that plan have yet to be made public.

The province did announce a $350,000 investment in the Winnipeg Police Service, with a specific focus on training and equipment to combat the drug trade.

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READ MORE: ‘Significant’ plans in the works to handle meth crisis: province

Bowman said that while the meth crisis is certainly not isolated to Winnipeg or Manitoba, he’s seen successful models to fight the problem in other cities and provinces.

“What’s most notable in other provinces is their harm reduction strategy,” he said. “They have safe consumption sites in Toronto and Vancouver and other cities.

“I’ve been very public in saying we shouldn’t rule anything out. If it comes to treatment, if it comes to reducing the amount of crime in the community, we shouldn’t be putting up ideological barriers to what we can do. We need to continue to have evidence- and fact-based discussion, and we need to continue to listen to people who are on the front lines every day.

“I appreciate the province is studying and moving forward with their plan, and we’re going to support them, but we need action now.”

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth. File / Global News

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth had similar sentiments about the healthcare elements of the crisis.

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“Although law enforcement has a component of this, I largely look at this as a health issue, an education issue,” Smyth told 680 CJOB Friday morning. “There are components within government that have been catching up to and responding to this now.”

Smyth said his experience from attending community forums about the meth problem has been that Winnipeggers are focused on treatment rather than policing – although it’s not unusual for people to ask police if they can arrest a meth-addicted friend or family for their own safety.

“At least if their loved one is arrested, they know they’re going to be in a safe place and potentially find their way into treatment,” said Smyth

“We’re not trying to criminalize people who are caught up in an addiction cycle on the user side.

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“I think, for law enforcement, our best efforts are to go after those who are exploiting everyone on the trafficking side.”

Anyone needing help can call the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605.

WATCH: On the front line of Winnipeg’s ongoing Meth Crisis
Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s Meth Crisis Part 1: What is Meth?' Winnipeg’s Meth Crisis Part 1: What is Meth?
Winnipeg’s Meth Crisis Part 1: What is Meth? – Oct 2, 2018

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