Toronto wants to follow BC on drug policy, so we shouldn’t

British Columbia’s drug policy is an example of what not to do.

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On January 31, 2023, the federal government granted a drug exemption to the entire province of British Columbia. Mere possession of hard drugs is no longer a criminal offense but a public health issue and will be treated as such.

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Most of the time, that seems to mean seeing people die from drug overdoses, because British Columbia’s drug overdose mortality rate is not going down in 2023, it’s going up.

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Toronto is currently asking permission from the federal government to follow BC’s example, even though the facts show it’s a terrible idea.

Time and time again, drug policy “experts” in and around Vancouver have told the rest of the country that a more liberal approach to drug policy would save lives. Our decades of experience show that this is not true, that constantly expanding the supply of medicines, simplifying drug use and removing barriers leads to more deaths.

This is not seen as compassionate by the activists who are dominating the debate, even though the facts show their model is not a compassionate model.

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In 2013, BC had 7.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 population and now, with five months of data on the decriminalization approach, they are heading towards an overdose fatality rate of 45.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. That’s higher than record rates of 44.8 per 100,000 in 2022 and 44.2 per 100,000 in 2021.

In fact, the opioid overdose death rate in British Columbia has fallen in just one year over the past decade. In 2019, the per capita rate fell to 19.4 from 31.2 in the previous year. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and the overdose death rate rose to 34.4 per 100,000.

Since then, the number has risen and shows no sign of abating, even as British Columbia expands so-called “safe care,” giving addicts “clean” drugs instead of street drugs, and after decriminalizing possession of all hard drugs.

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In comparison, Ontario is about a third of that level, Toronto is even below the Ontario average.

Ontario’s highest per capita overdose mortality rate was 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people in March 2021, up from about 16 now.

It’s hard to compare the data as Public Health Ontario won’t be reporting any opioid overdose deaths after August 2022, but the trendline is consistent – Ontario is one-third the overdose death rate in British Columbia and we’re urged to follow their failed policies.

This corresponds to a teacher’s request to copy the homework and test answers of the child who fails the class. It is not a recipe for success and should not be duplicated by any other jurisdiction.

However, that is exactly what the Toronto City Council wants to do, following the example of Dr. Eileen de Villa follows.

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“Drug use must be viewed as a public health problem and a determined public health response is required to effectively tackle the drug poisoning crisis.” The first request from January 2022 for an exemption states:.

Too bad the robust public health response seems to be to facilitate drug procurement and then release people into the neighborhood after they hit the snag.

In March 2023, Toronto’s motion to decriminalize simple possession was updated Extension of the exemption to young people between the ages of 12 and 17 and not just adults over the age of 18. If the Trudeau government in Ottawa approves it, it would be legal for anyone 12 and older to snort cocaine or inject heroin anywhere within Toronto city limits that is not a school, daycare or airport.

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If that doesn’t sound like smart policy to you, you can take comfort in knowing that the hard facts, the number of overdose deaths in British Columbia, support your gut feeling. Activists will advance their academic studies based on theories or models, but reality does not follow models.

In our society, there are more and more people who need help with addictions and mental illnesses. We need to get her treated for both, not one or the other.

For too long we have allowed activists disguised as experts to direct our drug policies. We have said goodbye to the four pillars of drug policy – Prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction – to simply take damage reduction to the extreme.

We need to refocus if we’re really going to help people, and that means rethinking the push to make medicines more accessible and refocusing on treatment.

That would be true compassion.

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