Toronto public health officials call on Ottawa to decriminalize drugs
Toronto public health officials say the federal government should decriminalize all drugs for personal use in an effort to fight the opioid epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.
A new report by Toronto Public Health also recommends the city's board of health urge Ottawa to create a task force to explore options for the legal regulation of all drugs.
The agency says the task force should include people who use drugs as well as experts in a variety of fields, including policy, public health and mental health.
The report, which is expected to be tabled at the city's board of health meeting next week, includes a survey that suggests Torontonians do not believe the current approach to drugs is working.
The research, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Toronto Public Health, suggests Toronto residents support drug use being treated as a public health and social issue instead of a criminal one.
The city's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, says that while considerable work has been done to combat the opioid crisis, the situation remains urgent.
"The criminalization of people who take drugs is contributing to the overdose emergency because it forces people into unsafe drug use practices and creates barriers to seeking help," she said in a statement.
"This is why I am calling on the federal government to take urgent action."