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Canada to make ‘important announcement’ with B.C. on overdose crisis

Public health approach focused on reducing harms and saving lives to be revealed

The federal government is set to make what it’s calling an “important announcement” with the British Columbia government on the overdose crisis.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett is scheduled to join her provincial counterpart, Sheila Malcolmson, in Vancouver today to provide details on what an advisory says is a public health approach focused on reducing harms and saving lives.

The announcement is expected to be related to B.C.’s application for an exemption from Canada’s drug laws to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use by those aged 19 and up.

The province became the first in the country last November to apply for an exemption that was aimed at eliminating criminal penalties and reducing the stigma associated with substance use.

At the time, Malcolmson said fear and shame prevent people from seeking potentially life-saving care in a province that declared a public health emergency in 2016 over a record number of opioid-related deaths.

In April, she said Health Canada’s update on the province’s request suggested it would consider a lower threshold than that requested by the province, which wanted a cumulative 4.5 grams for opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: B.C. paramedics receive record number of overdose calls in 2021, up 31% since 2020