B.C. Premier John Horgan says he regrets his use of the word “choice” when describing illicit drug use.
“I regret that I mischaracterized the challenges of addictions. I know addictions come from a place of despair and trauma,” Horgan said Friday. “That is not my point of view. I mischaracterized the position.”
A day earlier, the premier had been asked about the province’s response to its two ongoing public health emergencies: the overdose crisis and the novel coronavirus pandemic as the coroner reported a record number of illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. in June.
“I just think these are two separate things. We have an insidious virus that affects anyone at any time and we have an opioid crisis that involves people using drugs,” Horgan had responded.
“Those are choices, initially, and then they become dependencies. Once people make those choices they no longer are in a position to stop making those choices without medical intervention, so I think they’re two completely different things.”
B.C. recorded a 175 deaths due to illicit drug overdoses in June. That number has risen amid the pandemic as users have been more likely to take drugs alone and because the drug supply has become more toxic.
Advocacy groups were quick to slam Horgan’s use of the word “choices,” noting some users have become addicted after being prescribed painkillers.
One British Columbian even started an online petition asking him to apologize.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has advocated for decriminalization of opioids, said she hadn’t heard Horgan’s comment, but that she’s never had a conversation with the premier where he has been anything but respectful of drug users.
Last week, Horgan voiced support for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which called for the decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs.