Alistair MacGregor wants the ongoing opioid crisis recognized as a national emergency.
Speaking to North Cowichan’s council on April 17, the MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford said federal officials need to have “clear authority” to divert the necessary resources to deal with the issue.
He said on the National Day of Action on the overdose crisis on April 16, there were 31 white crosses along the Trans Canada Highway representing the 31 people from the Cowichan Valley who died of overdoses in 2018.
“There have been more than 10,000 deaths from overdoses across Canada over the last three years,” MacGregor said.
“It’s a killer and people are aware of it, but the problem is it’s not being treated with the resources that could be brought to bear. We need the best evidence-based strategy that we can get in place to deal with the crisis.”
In 2016, B.C.’s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency in the province in response to the rise in drug overdoses and deaths.
MacGregor, who also spoke to council on issues related to the Cowichan watershed and housing, said the war on drugs has been a failure and a new strategy is needed to deal with the crisis.
“A definition of insanity is when people do the same thing over and over and expect different results, and that’s the case here,” he said.
“Portugal had a very high death rate due to heroin overdoses, and the country then began to treat it as a social issue instead of a criminal one. Portugal now has one of the lowest rates of overdose deaths in the world. Everyone in the Valley knows someone who is impacted by the drug crisis. How long will we let people pass away without dealing with this problem?”
MacGregor said he realizes that there is no silver bullet to deal with the drug crisis.
“What is needed is a silver buckshot approach in which several government ministries and other groups and organizations work together on several levels,” he said.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said many people believe that because the opioid crisis impacts neighbourhoods, it’s the responsibility of local governments to deal with it.
“We just don’t have the resources to deal with this at the local level,” he said.
“I’ve spent more time in discussions on this more than any other issue in the municipality. I like this idea of a silver buckshot approach in which everyone works together to find solutions.”