'Stigma and fear' behind Canadians' concerns with 'safe supply' drug policies, claims Mental Health Minister

As overdose deaths continue to skyrocket across the country, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Ya'ara Saks is standing by her government's support for 'safe supply' drugs.

'Stigma and fear' behind Canadians' concerns with 'safe supply' drug policies, claims Mental Health Minister
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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Canada's minister of mental health and addictions claims that criticism aimed at harm reduction policies  including providing "safe supply" drugs to those struggling with addiction  is rooted in "stigma and fear."

With overdose deaths and the turmoil created by addiction continuing to ravage communities across Canada, many families have been left wondering if the Liberals' approach to treating drug abuse is actually doing more harm than good.

As reported by CTV News, Saks recently spoke about the issue, saying, “Why are we giving in to stigma and fear and not leading the discussion with compassion and trust?”

A string of events on a recent day in Belleville, Ont. exemplifies the severity of the opioid epidemic. Emergency crews responded to 14 overdoses in the city's downtown core over just a one-hour time period, forcing the mayor to declare a state of emergency.

Likely no province has been hit harder by the drug crisis than British Columbia. According to CTV News, over 2000 people have lost their lives from toxic drugs each year over the past three years in the province.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that across the country, drug overdoses were responsible for the deaths of approximately 23 people per day in 2023.

Speaking about the debate surrounding "safe supply" drug policies, Saks said, “A lot of what's driving the prescriber alternative debate is anchored, unfortunately by the opposition, in stigma and fear.”

As reported by CP24, Saks has a message for those who are critical of harm reduction policies including providing "safe supply" drugs to those battling substance abuse. "Let's sit down and have the conversation, so that we can see those who are most vulnerable in our communities, and understand how they got there." 

She added that this is even "if it means that we have to have hard conversations in communities, so that they don't look away, that they become a community that wants to help."

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's government is taking a different approach to treating addiction. The UCP has promised to pass a law that will allow for people with severe addiction issues to be involuntarily forced into drug treatment.

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre has also come out strongly against "safe supply" harm reduction policies. The Conservative leader is in favour of increasing access to drug treatment facilities to free people from addiction.

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