Kingston health advisors petition for decriminalization of personal drug use

The KFL&A Community Drug Strategy Advisory Committee is calling for the decriminalization of people who use drugs. In 2021, the advisory committee endorsed a Statement of Support for decriminalization and is now advancing their advocacy efforts by submitting an online petition to the federal government, according to a release from KFL&A Public Health.

House of Commons. Photo by Wangkun Jia via Canadian Encyclopedia.

The petition calls upon the Government of Canada to:

  • decriminalize the use of drugs for personal use,
  • support the provinces in their efforts to respond to the drug poisoning crisis, and
  • create a dedicated stakeholder-advised Standing Committee to respond to Canada’s drug poisoning crisis that supports harm reduction, prevention, and treatment options for people who use substances.

“Decriminalization is an evidence-informed approach to reducing the harms associated with substance use. In the KFL&A region and across Canada we continue to see drug poisoning deaths rise with no sign of slowing down,” said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health of KFL&A Public Health. “It is time to try a new approach, consistently applied throughout the country, that prioritizes the health and well being of people who use substances. Let’s work together as governments and communities to advance this new approach to save lives.”

Communities in the KFL&A region continue to see a rise in drug-related deaths, Public Health stated. According to the release, there was a 27 per cent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2019 to 2020, and preliminary data indicates there were 31 opioid-related deaths in the first 9 months of 2021.

“This petition is important because any resulting legislative change will alleviate unnecessary stress on our courts, emergency services, health care systems, and will save lives. A dedicated stakeholder-advised Standing Committee is a key part of this petition since expert feedback will be critical as the drug poisoning crisis changes over time.” expressed Sophie Kiwala, KFL&A Community Drug Strategy member and former MPP for Frontenac and the Islands.

According to the release, in 2020, half of opioid-related deaths in the KFL&A region occurred among individuals 25 to 44 years of age. 73 per cent of these individuals were male.

“In Canada, individuals are dying every day from drug-related deaths. By endorsing this petition, we hope to gain awareness and recognition of the health crisis we are fighting,” stated Andrea Kellar, member of the KFL&A Community Drug Strategy and Moms Stop The Harm. “Supporting the decriminalization of substances, funds currently used in to incarcerate individuals may be reallocated for treatment to help individuals and their families.”

The petition is now live on the House of Commons website and will be posted for 120 days. Individuals can show their support for decriminalization by signing the online petition. 500 signatures are required to receive a response from the Government of Canada.

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