WINNIPEG (TREATY 1) - Yesterday, the government of Canada approved the British Columbia government’s request to decriminalize small-scale personal possession of illicit drugs, starting next year. This policy change is one part of a wider public health and harm reduction approach to the ongoing drug poisoning crisis.

Unfortunately, Manitoba's PC government is opting to put its head in the sand and ignore the problem. Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen told the media yesterday that "Manitoba is focusing on cracking down on stopping the flow of illegal drugs coming into the province from either the United States or other jurisdictions".

“The overdose crisis is spiralling out of control while this government maintains a cynical and self-defeating law enforcement approach to a public health crisis,” said Thomas Linner, Provincial Director of the Manitoba Health Coalition. “We need to take every step possible to get people the help they need. Decriminalization saves lives. The government must reverse course and work with families, advocates and agencies on the ground to stop the needless chaos and death on our streets and in our communities.”

Later today, the House of Commons will be voting on Private Members Bill C-216, tabled by NDP MP Gord Johns. The bill would decriminalize simple possession, and outlines a national health-based strategy to reduce harm. This is an evidence-based public health approach that would allow people who use drugs to seek help when and how they need it, without fear of prosecution. The bill has widespread support from stakeholders and thousands of Canadians who have signed an online petition spearheaded by Moms Stop the Harm and Overdose Awareness Manitoba.

Canadians are being encouraged to email their MP directly about Bill C-216 and support the petition that is still open for signatures here.