The federal government has said it will join a class-action lawsuit against consulting firm McKinsey & Company over concerns about its role in the country’s opioid crisis.
The legal action was brought forward by British Columbia in December 2021 over the firm’s alleged marketing campaigns to boost opioid sales.
That lawsuit also named all provinces and territories, as well as Canada, as proposed class members, according to the office of Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions.
“The legal action by British Columbia against McKinsey & Company is still at a very early stage and is ongoing,” her office told Global News in a statement Thursday.
“Their certification process is scheduled to occur in winter 2024. Should this class action be certified, the federal government will also formally become a class member in it.”
The firm was forced to pay nearly $800 million in settlements in 2021 over its alleged promotion of opioid sales as the crisis gripped the United States.
At Ottawa’s request, the B.C. government amended its legislation in October 2022, so that Canada, in addition to B.C., has a legislative basis for claiming damages from the pharmaceutical industry in relation to the opioid crisis.
Bennett’s office said it wants all governments to recover health-care costs from any companies that acted inappropriately in the marketing and distribution of opioids.
“We will continue to explore all options to ensure that companies are held accountable for their role in the toxic drug and overdose crisis if they acted inappropriately in the marketing and distribution of opioids.”
A soaring number of Canadians have been affected by the opioid crisis in the country, with the number of deaths reaching an all-time high in 2021.
A total of 7,560 Canadians lost their lives to opioids that year – which means 21 deaths in a day. This was up from 3,747 in 2020, representing a 101 per cent increase and a 162 per cent increase from 2016.
McKinsey has also faced scrutiny about federal contracts it was awarded following revelations the firm’s work for Ottawa has expanded rapidly since Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government came to power in 2015.
A House of Commons committee is currently studying those federal contracts.