We sent a letter to each of British Columbia's major political parties asking for their stance on the overdose crisis and ensuring a safe supply. Find out here what their responses are.
The BC NDP were the first party to respond to our letter.
Canadian Association for Safe Supply - Letter
Thank you for your letter and for giving us the opportunity to respond to your questions. The overdose crisis is one of the biggest public health emergencies of our time, and there are very few people in B.C. whose lives have not been affected by it in one way or another. Responding to the crisis has been - and continues to be - a top priority for the BC NDP.
That is why, when we formed government in July 2017 we created a stand-alone Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the only one of its kind in Canada. And we’ve put more resources toward the overdose crisis in B.C. than ever before - over $600 million in new money since forming government, and well beyond what the BC Liberals had planned to spend - and ramped up evidence-based treatment, harm reduction and prevention efforts across B.C., including expanding naloxone and overdose prevention services, and connecting people to treatment. The voices of people with lived experience have been critical in those efforts and at the core of our policy making.
Before the pandemic, we still had a long way to go, but our collective efforts were making a difference. In 2019, we saw the first drop in the rate of overdose deaths since 2012, and according to the BC Centre for Disease Control, more than 6,000 deaths have been averted in B.C. Because we were listening to people with lived experience and hearing from people on the ground, when the overdose crisis was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, ours was the only provincial government that responded across the full continuum of care: expanding treatment, recovery, harm reduction and safe prescription alternatives - bolstered with over $25 million in additional funding.
A major focus in the BC NDP’s efforts has been in providing safe prescription alternatives to the toxic drug supply, an area where we have already made significant progress. This past March, we released new guidance and training for prescribers and pharmacists to keep people with substance-use disorder separated from the toxic drug supply and protect them from withdrawal and other harms during COVID-19 with safe prescription alternatives. On September 16, Dr. Henry issued a public health order to increase the number of health professionals authorized to help people at risk for overdose with access to safer alternatives to the toxic street drug supply, as B.C. works to update prescribing guidance.
If re-elected, we will:
● expand eligibility criteria for prescription alternatives to prioritize reducing overdose
events and deaths, and reach individuals with opioid-use disorder, other substance-use
disorders or individuals with a history of accessing the toxic street drug supply who are
at high risk of overdose and other drug-related harms;
● carefully expand the types of medications that can be prescribed and dispensed by
doctors, pharmacists and nurses; and
● continue to commit to ongoing evaluation and monitoring and support evidence-based
We have also been clear in our call to the federal government for decriminalization of simple possession so people can be treated like patients as they should be. We know that criminalization of drug possession is an ineffective deterrent and directly leads to stigma and discrimination that isolates people and prevents them from seeking help. A re-elected BC NDP
government will work with police chiefs to push Ottawa to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use, or develop a made-in-B.C. solution that will help save lives.
We know there is much more to do. One death is too many, and we know that more resources continue to be needed in order to turn this terrible tide. If re-elected, we are going to keep working with people to accelerate B.C.’s response across the full continuum of care: prevention, harm reduction, safe prescription medications, treatment, and recovery.
Dear Members of the Canadian Association for Safe Supply,
On behalf of all BC Liberal candidates, please accept the following statement in response to your letter:
Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals understand how important the issue of the opioid crisis is to all British Columbians. Tragically, the crisis of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses has increased to take record numbers of British Columbians' lives. We believe that we need to clearly recognize that addiction is a medical disorder, and ensure a focus on public health and safety in the treatment of people suffering from addictions.
This can't be addressed with a one size fits all policy. Some individuals need access to a safe supply, but we need pathways to get people off drugs to lead healthy, productive lives. We cannot confine people to a lifetime of drug addiction.
We will increase addiction-treatment and recovery programs, and ensure those who need help getting off drugs have a clear pathway to treatment, unlike the NDP's approach of simply warehousing people with addictions.
A BC Liberal Government will treat the causes of opioid addictions and work towards a solution to prevent the harm for all British Columbians.
Thank you for reaching out to us.
October 20th, 2020
Thank you for your inquiry into how the B.C. Greens will support those impacted by the opioid
crisis and managing addictions.
Leader, B.C. Greens
B.C. Green Candidate for Cowichan Valley
1. Could you please outline and explain how your party will develop drug policy to meet
the needs of those affected by the current crisis resulting from the toxic supply
permeating the illicit drug market.
Drug policies need to support public health and be based on a compassionate and evidence-based response. Key in this approach is providing people who use drugs with adequate resources to minimize the risks of drug use and support individual and public health. In the face of an illegal, toxic drug supply, safe supply is a crucial intervention to keep people
safe. By providing access to alternatives through physicians and nurses, safe supply helps people at risk of overdose connect with healthcare professionals and reduce the risk of overdose death. We will scale up safe supply beyond its current level by working with the colleges of physicians and pharmacists to encourage their members to participate in existing programs, funding a wider range of safe supply resources, including low-barrier ways of dispensing (e.g. dispensing machines), and conducting ongoing consultation with people who use drugs in order to create low-barrier and accessible programs.
Harm reduction interventions, such as providing sterile equipment, supervised consumption services, overdose prevention sites, and naloxone are cost-effective and key to ensuring that people at risk of overdose are kept alive. Harm reduction has been proven to reduce the risks of transmissible disease, prevent overdose fatalities, reduce public disorder, and create links for people to access healthcare services and enter treatment. We would enhance funding for harm reduction services and create COVID-friendly plans to ensure people have access and don’t use alone.
Decriminalization of personal possession of drugs is a policy option that is increasingly being called for by experts. Recently called for by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, decriminalization will reduce the stigma of drug use, which creates barriers to accessing important health services. It would allow us to reduce the costs of policing and the criminal justice system, which we can reallocate into improved evidence-based treatment programs and education. We commit to de-prioritizing policing of simple possession through implementing Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommended amendments to the Police Act, and strongly pursuing decriminalization with the federal government for B.C.
2. Does your party agree the current level of revenue and resources are adequate to
address the overdose crisis? How would your party adjust the budget to take on the
We do not believe that the current level of resources has been adequate to address this crisis. One of the most pressing crises that we face has not received the dedication and leadership that it requires. With compassionate evidence-based policy and courageous leadership we can change this. We would make significant investments into mental healthcare, including $200 million additional funding per year to invest in facilities to provide mental healthcare services and community-based centres for mental health and rehabilitation, and accelerating capital plans for the construction of tertiary care facilities and detoxification beds. We have also committed additional funding for harm reduction. We commit to working with experts and community organizations to determine an actionable plan for the priorities we listed above, as
well as identifying further actions that are needed to address the overdose crisis and keep people safe.
3. Would your party consider providing legal and regulated alternatives to the illicit
market? If so, please explain how.
At this point, the B.C. Greens would take a two-fold approach to addressing the opioid crisis through legislative and policy change: 1) expanding our provision of safe supply of opioids to those who need them, and 2) working to decriminalize simple possession of drugs through Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommended amendments to the Police Act and strongly pursuing
decriminalization through the federal government. We believe significant progress can be made through decriminalization and safe supply, and would prioritize these steps at this point to tackle the opioid crisis and keep people safe.
4. Does your party support expanding access to opioids and stimulants within the medical system such as extending prescribing privileges to nurses and pharmacists?
Would your party consider options to provide opioids and stimulants to people outside of the medical system, such as through a compassion club? Does your party have other ideas for providing access to legal and regulated drugs?
The B.C. Greens commit to working with the colleges of physicians and pharmacists to encourage their members to participate in existing programs that focus on providing a safe supply of illicit drugs beyond its current level. Extending privileges to nurses and pharmacists is also something we will consider through consultation with these and other stakeholders, including community organizations and people who use drugs and their families. We will consider all evidence-based policies, in order to meaningfully address this crisis through a multi-faceted, compassionate approach.