Commentary: How Yukon’s federal election candidates would tackle the opioid crisis

Esther Armstrong

The overdose crisis continues to have a devastating impact on families and communities across Canada. In 2018 alone there were 4,460 deaths related to opioids across the country; one life lost every two hours. These numbers represent friends, parents, children, partners — every person lost was loved and brought value to their community.

The Yukon is not immune to the crisis. In fact, the per capita rate of Yukoners lost to overdose since 2016 is comparable to that of British Columbia, the hardest hit Canadian province or territory.

Aug. 31 marked a noteworthy event — International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). In recognition of this day, on Friday Aug. 30, Blood Ties Four Directions Centre held a naloxone training blitz on the corner of Main and Front Street. Our goal was to train 100 people, five for every life lost in the Yukon since 2016. The community support for this event was incredible and we are happy to share that 88 people were trained and Whitehorse now has 88 more people able to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose and save a life.

However, although front-line harm reduction programs like naloxone distribution, fentanyl testing, and safer consumption sites play an important role in the opioid crisis and have saved lives, without a regulated drug supply in the market these programs are Band-Aid solutions for a much larger issue.

As such, in light of both International Overdose Awareness Day and the upcoming federal election, Blood Ties reached out to the local candidates running in the federal election and asked them questions about their position, policy or platform on the opioid crisis. Below are excerpts from their responses; we have posted their answers in full on our Facebook page, Blood Ties Four Directions Centre.

We asked: There are different legal perspectives on how we can end overdose deaths in Canada by changing how we regulate illegal drugs. Do you support:

• Decriminalization of personal possession, use, and acquisitions of all drugs and treating drug use as a health issue and not a crime;

• Legalization of all drugs and regulations of the drug supply in Canada to ensure safe access to drugs for those who use them;

• Something else; or,

• The status quo.

Larry Bagnell, Liberal Party of Canada:

“There are success stories with decriminalization, such as Portugal, that has decreased deaths and increased people seeking treatment. My strategy would be to try and convince my caucus members to study those countries that have experimented with decriminalizing or legalizing drug use…to see which is the most successful way to reduce harm and deaths and increase voluntary requests for treatment. I definitely believe that dangerous harmful drugs should be regulated”.

Justin Lemphers, New Democratic Party:

“An NDP government will declare a public health emergency and commit to working with all levels of government, experts and Canadians to end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction”.

Lenore Morris, Green Party of Canada:

“I believe that this [decriminalization] is likely the best option but that it must be combined with a very significant increase in public education and addiction treatment programming”.

Jonas Smith, Conservative Party of Canada:

“I personally believe there are merits to treating addictions (to illegal drugs) as a health issue as opposed a criminal issue…however I believe that it is very much a criminal issue when it comes to those who traffic in known, addictive and harmful substances and that every effort should be made to give law enforcement the tools they require to put these predators behind bars”.

We encourage you to view their full responses to find out where your local candidates stand on this important public health issue. The opioid overdose crisis in Canada affects everyone.

Esther Armstrong is the scaling up coordinator at Blood Ties Four Directions Centre. The federal election in Canada is happening Oct. 21

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read