Don: On International Overdose Awareness, NDP Condemns Scheer’s Comments

Responding to questions on the opioid crisis in an interview with CBC radio this week, Conservative Party Leader, Andrew Scheer, criticized the focus by various level of governments on harm reduction. Scheer said, “I don’t think that [harm reduction] should be the focus,” and “There’s nothing there that breaks that cycle of addiction.”

In response, Don Davies, the NDP’s Health Critic and MP for Vancouver Kingsway, issued the following statement on International Overdose Awareness Day:

“Mr. Scheer’s rejection of a harm reduction approach to the opioid crisis reveals an outdated, unscientific and dangerous ideology.  His failure to understand that addiction is a health issue, and not one of crime or morality, represents the kind of thinking that leads to unnecessary injury and death.

In B.C. alone, the opioid crisis claimed the lives of over 1,600 people since the beginning of last year. Across Canada in 2016, six Canadians died from overdoses every day and all signs point to an even higher rate this year. In spite of these alarming statistics, Mr. Scheer is advocating that the focus of the government should be moved away from reducing the number of overdoses and deaths. Such comments are misguided and dangerous.

To be clear, the Liberal government has not done nearly enough to make real progress on the opioid crisis.  Inexplicably, the Liberals continue to refuse to declare this clear health crisis a national emergency which would open up more resources and support for communities that are facing this deadly epidemic.  I call on them to do so once again today.

But the solution is not to reject science and sound medicine.  It is undeniable that an addict has no chance of recovery if they are dead.  That is why Canada needs to take an even stronger health-based approach, whose primary goal should be the reduction of harm, prevention, education and treatment.  We need to listen to the exports who are proposing additional measures such as mental health supports, opioid substitution programs and others that focus on treatment for patients.

Today, I’ll mark International Overdose Awareness Day by meeting  with frontline workers and those affected directly by the opioid crisis.

I urge Mr. Scheer to do the same.”


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