Prime minister addresses fentanyl crisis

Joe Amon via
Joe Amon via

He emphasizes severity, but are there any federal solutions?

By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor


The ongoing fentanyl crisis received federal recognition during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most recent visit to Vancouver.

“The impact has been devastating. Families ripped apart. Communities forever altered. Loved ones lost too soon,” Trudeau said, according to CTV.

After discussing the issue with mayors from municipalities all over Canada, Trudeau discussed the matter with BC Premier Christy Clark on March 2, before taking a tour of the Downtown Eastside and making a public address on March 3.

“This is a crisis that seems, for most Canadians, to be very far away. Something that’s limited to certain tougher parts of town, to the West Coast, but we are seeing a spread of opioids across the country, and we’re seeing it spread far and wide across socio-economic levels, across communities,” Trudeau said to CBC.

Trudeau made an array of suggestions over what must be done to alleviate the crisis based off a survey of smaller government leaders.

“We continue to understand that, yes, there is a need for specific funding for frontline supports and medical support, and we’re of course working with the province on that […] there is much to do and we will certainly continue to work to ensure there are resources to tackle and overcome this problem,” Trudeau said to CBC.

Other suggestions that Trudeau made was expanding mental health services and creating housing and employment prospects that would help those living on the streets improve their livelihoods.

Trudeau also heeded the suggestions of those most likely to be affected by the crisis. On Trudeau’s last tour of the Downtown Eastside in December 2016, residents emphasized the positive impact being made by safe injection sites, and suggested that having the government help in expanding the hours had the potential to save lives.

The Liberal government has started to take note that these harm-reduction programs have been an effective tool in battling the crisis. The government previously announced that $10 million would be allocated toward resources that would help those most at risk.

Despite his words on the severity of the fentanyl crisis, Trudeau revealed that there are no current plans to declare a public health emergency over the matter. There is also no upcoming federal legislature that would address some of the legal issues surrounding the crisis—such as relieving restrictions on safe injection sites.

However, the Good Samaritan’s Bill, introduced by Coquitlam MP Rob McKinnon, would release those under the influence of illegal substances in the event that they need to report an overdose.