Toronto to ask federal government to decriminalize possession of illicit drugs for personal use

Toronto is making ready to ask the federal authorities to decriminalize the possession of illicit medication for private use within the metropolis, saying the transfer is required as drug-related deaths attain report highs.

A public session on the matter wrapped up this week and the town’s high physician mentioned Toronto expects to ship its request to Well being Canada later this fall.

“In Toronto, deaths involving all substances, together with opioids, have elevated to report highs,” Dr. Eileen de Villa mentioned in an announcement. “The scenario stays pressing and extra motion is required to reply.”

Learn extra:
Ontario’s big city mayors call for decriminalization of drugs

Toronto Public Well being mentioned a complete of 521 confirmed opioid overdose deaths had been recorded within the metropolis final yr. That represented a 78 per cent improve from deaths recorded in 2019, it mentioned.

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Metropolis information additionally signifies that within the first three months of this yr, paramedics responded to 1,173 suspected opioid overdose calls, together with 93 involving a loss of life. That in comparison with 46 calls involving loss of life within the first three months of 2020.

The decriminalization request Toronto is making ready — which is able to ask Well being Canada for an exemption underneath the Managed Medicine and Substances Act for private drug use within the metropolis — would comply with the same one made by Vancouver in Might.

Leigh Chapman, a registered nurse and co-organizer with the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, referred to as Toronto’s deliberate federal request “a step in the appropriate route.”

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She misplaced her 43-year-old brother, Brad, to an opioid overdose in August 2015 _ just a few weeks after he was launched from jail. His loss of life led to a coroner’s inquest that yielded a sequence of suggestions to raised safeguard weak folks dwelling with addictions.

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One of many suggestions was that the federal authorities ought to take into account decriminalizing the possession of all medication for private use and improve prevention, hurt discount and therapy companies.

Chapman mentioned these measures might have saved her brother.

“Brad’s complete life would have been completely different if he hadn’t had … actually a cycle of incarceration for in all probability over 20 years on and off,” she mentioned.

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A 2016 examine revealed within the journal PLOS ONE discovered that between 2006 and 2013 in Ontario, one in ten drug toxicity deaths in adults occurred inside one yr of launch from provincial incarceration.

“I believe we have to cut back the harms from criminalization to have the ability to higher meet folks’s wants, meet them the place they’re at and see how we might help them keep alive,” Chapman mentioned.

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Coun. Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Board of Well being, mentioned metropolis workers are “at present consulting on the main points of what an exemption would appear like” in relation to decriminalizing medication for private use in Canada’s most populous metropolis.

“We’re coping with a public well being disaster,” Cressy mentioned. “And the way in which to deal with it’s with a well being response.”

Decriminalization is a key component in a sequence of measures wanted to sort out the overdose disaster, alongside therapies, elevated hurt discount companies and a safer provide, Cressy mentioned.

Learn extra:
Fact or Fiction: Will decriminalizing and regulating illegal drugs save lives in Ontario?

“It’s a crucial piece and I believe that the refrain of specialists, from regulation enforcement to healthcare, who’re calling for such motion nationally, is simply rising as a result of folks proceed to die from preventable deaths,” he mentioned.

Toronto’s Centre for Dependancy and Psychological Well being lately launched an announcement on the difficulty, saying making criminals out of substance customers has been ineffective and counterproductive.

Cressy added that whereas Toronto’s request to the federal authorities could be particular to the town, nationwide decriminalization was one thing the native board of well being has referred to as for yearly since 2018.

“A nationwide framework, one thing that CAMH has referred to as for, that Toronto’s Board of Well being has lengthy referred to as for, might and must be executed instantly,” he mentioned.

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Well being Canada didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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